MANILA (UPDATE) – The Philippines is raising its herd immunity target to protect Filipinos against the more infectious COVID-19 Delta variant.
Vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. said herd immunity would be achieved in the Philippines if 80 to 90 percent is vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
“Nakikita po natin na mostly baka po 'yung herd immunity, dahil kasi nga po doon sa Delta variant, baka i-angat po natin ng 80 to 90 percent, 'yun po ang pagkakasabi ng maraming experts. Na para ang antas na maproteksyonan ang ating population ay iakyat natin ng 80 to 90 percent,” he said on TeleRadyo.
(It seems that the herd immunity target will be achieved if the 80 to 90 percent of the eligible population would be vaccinated from COVID-19, according to experts.)
Galvez said the government hopes to vaccinate 77 million Filipinos by yearend, then reach 90 million vaccinated Filipinos by the first quarter of 2022.
“So 'yung target natin na 77 million, baka siguro 90 million na Filipinos po ang talagang ita-target po namin before the end of 1st quarter (2022). So 'yung 77 million, pipilitin po namin na end of the year, tapos 'yung tinatawag namin na herd immunity na 90 percent, first quarter 2022.”
(Our target is 77 million by the yearend and up to 90 million Filipinos by the first quarter of 2022. We really aim to vaccinate 77 million Filipinos, then up to 90 percent for herd immunity during the first quarter next year.)
He said the Philippines has a stable of supply of jabs from Pfizer and Sinovac.
“’Wag po kayo mag-alaala dahil kasi 'yung Pfizer po natin stable po 'yung ating supply and also yung Sinovac.”
(Don't worry because our Pfizer and Sinovac vaccine supplies are stable.)
He added that more vaccines are expected to arrive in the coming months.
“Ang atin pong Pfizer tsaka Moderna ay mataas po kanilang antas ng kanilang delivery this coming October. We might receive 10 million of Pfizer and more or less 5 million na Moderna.”
(Manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna will have high numbers of deliveries this October.)
Galvez also said he hopes more jabs from global vaccine-sharing facility COVAX will arrive in the Philippines soon.
“Hopefully 'yung private sector na procurement ay tuloy tuloy po na dumarating at least kahit mga more than 1 million every month. And then also hopefully 'yung COVAX, makapag-sustain sila ng at least mga 5 million to 6 million this coming October, November,” he said.
(We hope that the private sector's procurement will be steady, let's say more than 1 million deliveries every month. We also hope that COVAX will sustain at least 5 million to 6 million jabs this October to November)
During a budget hearing on Wednesday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez echoed Galvez, noting that at least 142 million doses are expected to arrive in the country until the end of the year.
"With a more reliable vaccine delivery we are ready to scale up the inoculation drive. We have managed to administer several hundred vaccine shots in a single day," Dominguez explained.
"We are aiming to bring that up to a million a day to achieve inoculation of all Filipino adults by the end of the year," he said.
The official added that some 9 million virus shots should arrive weekly so the government would be able to vaccinate up to 70 percent of the population by yearend.
While it is also possible to vaccinate the said population target on the given timeframe, he emphasized that some factors should also be taken into consideration, such as delivery delays.
Last week, he said, only 3.5 million doses reached the country. He also noted that the government had ordered enough vaccine supplies.
"That looks probable, but again Mr. Chairman, last month one of the [mRNA] suppliers [had] problems, they had a batch that was very bad, the deliveries to private sector orders were delayed. We hope for the best," said Dominguez.
He was referring to Moderna vaccines delivered in Japan last month, which authorities flagged for foreign materials in some of the unused doses.
This was why use of around 1.63 million shots manufactured in the same production line was suspended as a precaution.
The health department earlier said the most recent Moderna deliveries in the country were safe. Moderna had also said the vaccine shots in question were only shipped to Japan.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua, meanwhile, said they are still studying the proposal to raise the population target to reach herd immunity amid emerging variants.
Some also raised the possibility, he said, that COVID-19 would not go away easily and that eventually, it could be treated like a flu which would need yearly immunization.
The Philippines has fully vaccinated at least 15 million people against COVID-19, Malacañang said on Monday.
- With reports from Job Manahan and Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News