Herd immunity must be attained before 2023, VP Leni says

Published February 10, 2021, 1:45 PM

by Raymund Antonio

The Philippines should aim for herd immunity earlier than 2023, or the timeline provided by the Department of Health (DOH) in achieving protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) for majority of the population, Vice President Leni Robredo said Wednesday.

Vice-President Leni Robredo (OVP / Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a Q&A style video message posted on her Facebook page, Robredo said that getting more people vaccinated would mean that the economy will recover faster.

“The DOH recently said, either yesterday or the other day, that (we will reach herd immunity) in 2023. For me, the goal should be better than 2023. That is concerning because a lot of people are suffering, many have lost their jobs, so our goal should be to get many people vaccinated faster,” she said in Filipino.

The Vice President urged everyone to work together to reach that goal.

“My suggestion is for us to work together. First, we should hasten the roll-out of the vaccine. Second, let’s get together to boost the confidence of the youth in trusting the safety of the vaccine. Third, we should achieve herd immunity so we can go back to normal,” she said.

Herd immunity happens when the virus can’t spread in a community because it keeps on encountering people who are protected against the virus. Medical experts, however, pointed out that there is a lack of evidence supporting herd immunity.

Instead, they prefer to call it “herd protection” since it doesn’t make a community immune to the virus, but only reduces the vulnerability of people that come into contact with it.

Quoting the goal of the country’s COVID-19 Inter-agency Task Force (IATF), Robredo said that the Philippines should reach the vaccination of 75 percent to 80 percent of the population, or about 80 million Filipinos to achieve herd immunity.

“We can see each other again. We can go out to eat. We can hug our relatives that we haven’t seen for a long time. We can eat at one table without fear of getting sick. We won’t have to fear visiting those we haven’t seen in a while. We can work again. Our children can go back to school. This is what we are aiming for now,” she said.

The initial batch of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility is set to arrive by mid-February. It would be 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which would require subzero temperatures for storage.