MANILA - The Philippines is halfway through its goal of fully vaccinating against the coronavirus disease 70 percent of the country's population, data monitored by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed Wednesday.
Almost 38.7 million people in the country have been fully vaccinated as of Monday, Dec. 6, accounting for 50.17 percent of the government's high-end target of more than 77.1 million people, the research group said.
Officials have previously said the country needs to fully vaccinate up to 70 percent of its total population to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19. The minimum target is set at around 54 million.
Government data monitored by the ABS-CBN IRG also showed that nearly 53.5 million others have received their first of two doses of the COVID-19 jab.
Among regions, the National Capital Region is leading in terms of vaccination coverage, having fully inoculated 93.5 percent of its population.
Three other regions have vaccinated at least half of their target populations: the Cordillera Administrative Region (57 percent), Central Luzon (52 percent), and CALABARZON (50 percent).
Meanwhile, only SOCCSKSARGEN and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao have vaccinated less than 30 percent of their target population, with the former at 29 percent and the latter at 13 percent.
The government will hold next week for three days a second run of its national vaccination drive, aiming to cover at least 7 million people, including those who need to complete their jabs.
"The goal really is by the end of the month, we want to hit 54 million fully vaccinated. Sa second round ng national vaccination days natin, the focus will be on those who need their second dose," Cabinet Secretary Carlo Nograles said in an interview on CNN Philippines.
Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante said the drop in COVID-19 cases in the country may be attributed to the improving vaccination rate.
"At least, we now have 40 percent of the total population, more or less, we are experiencing now the value of vaccination,” he said.
“But what’s the other reason here? I think we have what we call natural immunity," he added.
"There are people we don’t know that were exposed during the three waves of COVID-19. Some of these might still have an antibody, particularly those who are in the younger population. I think the health protocol also helped us a lot go through this surge and cases are going down."
Still, Solante said more people should get vaccinated, amid the threat of the COVID-19 omicron variant.
He said existing vaccines are still believed to be effective against the highly-mutated omicron variant.
"Kaya maganda ang situation natin ngayon, because wala pa tayong omicron variant, and we are now fast tracking booster vaccination… The consensus is, as long as we maintain a very high efficacy, 70-80 percent, then we are good even with the omicron variant,” he said.
“Yung primary vaccine series ‘pag more than six months ka na, ‘yung protection mo kailangan na ng booster."
The ABS-CBN IRG said more than 561,000 booster doses have so far been administered.
"For those primary vaccine series na hindi pa nakalampas ng 6 months, halimbawa, 4th to 5th month ka pa, you still have protection against the omicron, but more or less, lesser compared to when you get the primary during the first 2 to 3 months,” Solante said.
The Philippines has so far received a total of more than 149 million doses of different COVID-19 vaccine brands, as of Dec. 6, of which, over 92.7 million have been administered.
The country received its first vaccine supply on Feb. 28 this year, and immediately rolled them out the day after.
More than 2.83 million confirmed COVID-19 cases have been recorded in the Philippines, as of Wednesday, of which 12,510 or 0.4 percent were active infections.
The country's first case was logged on Jan. 30 last year in a Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan City, China where the disease is believed to have first emerged.