Philippines may meet vax targets by first quarter of 2022: expert

Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 08 2021 10:14 AM | Updated as of Dec 08 2021 10:31 AM

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MANILA – The government may achieve its target of vaccinating 70 to 90 percent of the population by the first quarter of 2022, a health reform advocate said Wednesday.

“I think we cannot achieve the 70-90 percent vaccination rate by this month. I think they can achieve [that] but in the next quarter,” said Dr. Tony Leachon, who used to advise the government’s COVID-19 task force.

“But if we have a people’s protection rate around 50 percent then we’re in a position right now to protect the people particularly in those business areas: Calabarzon, Central Luzon and of course (National Capital Region), so I would be happy with that, and even the Luzon area," he added. 

“But in terms of national, we’re still far off, because of the logistic problem in (Visayas and Mindanao) area, and of course because also of their higher vaccine hesitancy in that particular area."

Leachon stressed, however, that government must still strive to meet its goal of vaccinating the 90 percent of the population as soon as possible, as the threat of the COVID-19 omicron variant looms around the globe.

“Right now with the threat of the omicron, and still ongoing delta variant across the globe, our target for vaccination herd immunity should be around 90 percent, and we should also fast-track our booster doses for above 18, and of course those less than 18,” he said.

“But with the vaccination rate, we’re improving. I think we will be more resilient and stronger facing the challenges of the new variants,” he added.

The doctor also agreed with scientist-priest Nicanor Austriaco’s view that the Philippines may already have achieved "substantial population immunity" against the novel coronavirus.

“I think we’re doing well and I agree with Fr. Nic Austriaco that we attained a certain immunity, particularly for the National Capital Region. 

The NCR actually has a vaccination rate of 97 percent, he said, and "around seven regions in the country are above the 40 percent vaccination rate, while six regions less than 40 percent.”

“Now since the NCR is the driver of the vaccination and you know that 40 percent of the cases are driven or anchored by the performance of the NCR, then this can actually carry us in terms of, you know, reduction of cases and perhaps protection of the population.”

ABS-CBN News’ vaccine tracker shows that as of Dec. 6, the government has achieved 50.17 percent of its targeted 77.1 million people for complete vaccination, more than 9 months since its vaccine rollout.

The government is set to hold another national vaccination drive on December 15-17 after government managed to inoculate nearly 10 million in the initial run from November 29-December 3. 

--ANC, 8 December 2021