MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday said setting higher targets in containing the spread of COVID-19 will prompt the government to take urgent actions.
She issued the statement amid a shift in the administration's goal of achieving "population protection" instead of "herd immunity" against the coronavirus before the end of the year, according to a Department of Health official.
"Para sa akin, okay naman yun mas realistic ang target. Pero para sa akin, mas marami tayong gagawin, mas urgent yung ating aksyon kung mas mataas ang targets. Wala naman tayong talo kung mataas ang targets natin kasi at least, 'yun ang ita-try nating i-achieve," Robredo said in her weekly radio show.
(It's okay to have a more realistic target. But I think if we aim for higher targets, our actions will be more urgent. We won't lose anything if we set our targets high because at least, we'll try to achieve them.)
Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje announced last week the government's shift "to the term 'population protection' through mass immunization" amid the presence of more infectious COVID-19 variants, saying herd immunity has a lot of attached criteria.
Prior to her statement, Malacañang already said that the government is targeting “population protection” by Nov. 27 in Metro Manila and 4 surrounding provinces – an area government calls NCR Plus.
According to the DOH, this means minimizing hospitalization and deaths from COVID-19. “We prevent hospitalization. We prevent and minimize deaths by prioritizing,” Cabotaje said.
“And the bigger the population that is vaccinated, we have population protection, so hindi magkakahawaan. Kung may magkahawaan man, this will be very mild."
(And the bigger the population that is vaccinated, we have population protection, there will be no transmission If there is transmission, this will be very mild.)
“Herd immunity” usually refers to continuous protection, said Cabotaje, who is chairperson of the National Vaccinations Operations Center.
Based on his latest pronouncements, Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. said herd immunity entails the inoculation of 58-70 million individuals, while it is 25-50 million for herd containment.
Meanwhile, Robredo said training more vaccinators would take some pressure off nurses and doctors, and allow them to focus their work in hospitals.
"Kung aasa lang tayo sa mga doktor at nurses na sobra na nga ang kanilang ginagawa sa mga ospital, matatagalan talaga (achieving herd immunity)," the Vice President said.
(If we'll rely only on doctors and nurses, we will take long to vaccinate because they're already doing so much in hospitals.)
"Magte-train tayo ng mga vaccinators, kasi lumalabas, kulang talaga yung nagbabakuna. Kahit may supply, walang nagbabakuna..Tingin ko, among the BHW (barangay health workers), marami naman diyan ang pwedeng i-train na mag-vaccinate, gaya sa ibang bansa 'di naman lahat medical personnel ang nagbabakuna," she added.
(We should train vaccinators because it seems we lack the numbers even if we had suppy. I think we can train many among the BHWs for vaccination, like in other countries where not all who administer jabs are medical personnel.)
Robredo said the government must also study the reasons behind people's hesitancy, and why a number of people prefer a particular brand of COVID-19 vaccine versus other brands.
"Kailangan talagang harapin natin, bakit ba kulang ang kumpyansa sa isang brand na ito, para 'pag nagkampanya tayo against the vaccine hesitancy, tama ang kampanya natin. Mahalaga na iniintindi natin... 'Di pwedeng idaan sa propaganda na sinisiraan ng oposisyon," she said.
(We should face this - why are people not confident in this brand. We should campaign against vaccine hesitancy. It's important we understand this... We should not use propaganda that the opposition is just criticizing this.)
Robredo had earlier said she was willing to appear in a vaccine informercial along with President Rodrigo Duterte following a senator's proposal.
More than 5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the country, according to Galvez. The inoculation drive began March 1.
As of Saturday, the Philippines has recorded a total of 1,216,582 confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 53,614 or 4.4 percent are active.