PH won’t get herd immunity by end of 2021 with slow vaccination pace – Robredo
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines can’t achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 by the end of 2021 with the current slow pace of vaccinations, Vice President Leni Robredo said in her weekly radio program, “BISErbisyong LENI,” on Sunday.
Herd immunity means getting 70 percent of the population — or 70 million people — vaccinated, and to achieve that by the end of the year the government will have to vaccinate 256,993 individuals daily, Robredo said.
She said she got this figure by dividing the target vaccinated population — which is 73.5 million — by the number of days from March 21 to Dec. 31 — which is 286 days.
“Our hope is that we would be normal by Christmas,” she said in Filipino.
But then she said that would not be possible at the current average rate of 15,000 vaccinations daily.
So far, she pointed out, only 269,583 health workers have been vaccinated as of March 17 using some of the 1,125,600 doses available.
“Of course, that [supply] is still no enough,” she said.
But then, even with the limited number of doses available, she said there was no excuse for the low utilization rate.
Some supporters of the Duterte administration, she noted, have answered critics complaining about the slow acquisition of vaccines by saying that rich countries had been buying up all the supplies. So the Philippines could not get more doses immediately.
“Even if we assume that to be true, we still have a supply of 1,125,600,” she said. “Many people should have already benefited from that. All we’re saying is that, what if we use even half, but we have not even used half of that because the other half is being reserved for the second dose.”
So far, the government has only used 23.95 percent of the supply, she said.
The government expects additional vials to be delivered sometime in late March or early April. However, the current COVID-19 surge highlights the need for a quicker rollout of the vaccines, as the country currently has over 73,000 active infections.
According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, the vaccination of health workers cannot be hastened as there is still a chance that some of them will experience adverse effects. If that happens, there will be a shortage of workers to attend to COVID-19 patients.
As of this writing, the Philippines has recorded more than 7,000 new cases daily in three consecutive days, prompting officials to announce a general community quarantine bubble — that is, an area composed of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna — that will be in effect from March 22 to April 4.
Analytics group OCTA Research predicts that the country may have a total of 11,000 cases daily by the end of March if the surge is not stopped.
Robredo recalled that in 2020 she had already been urging the government to create a vaccine roadmap to avoid the snags that might come up, such as the one that Duque was referring to.
“Let’s fix this. It’s what we‘ve been saying — that while we still don’t have vaccines, let’s fix this,” she said, referring to plans on the implementation of a vaccination program.
“We can’t just leave it to those in the hospitals to do the vaccination. In other countries, they activated everyone who knows how to vaccinate, everyone who can be trained, etc. Now, when the vaccines are here, it’s only now that we’re doing it.,” she added.
“If you remember what we said the last time, what we said was that we are so behind and the others are ten steps ahead…. We can see now that we’re not prepared. The numbers did not come from us. The numbers came from them,” she said.
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