Duterte: PH may reach herd immunity by early 2022, but can face difficulty in archipelago

Published March 1, 2021, 10:02 AM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The Philippines is aiming to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus by early next year, President Duterte declared after the country’s first supply of vaccines arrived Sunday.

(Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg)

The President, however, recognized that herd immunity may be difficult to reach especially in an archipelago like the Philippines where people live in different islands.

Herd immunity refers to the substantial percentage of the population becoming immune to a disease to stave off the spread of infections.

“Mahirap kasi ‘yan, ma’am, because ang herd immunity — para sa akin personally mas maganda kung contiguous ang territory because you only have to do a circle, paliit nang paliit, paliit nang paliit hanggang — towards the center of gravity (That’s difficult because herd immunity for me personally, it would be better if the territory is contiguous because you only have to do a circle, where the area becomes smaller until it reaches, towards the center of gravity),” the President said during a press conference Sunday, Feb. 28. 

“Eh ito island por island eh (We have islands here) and we cannot stop travel. And we cannot expect all people to agree to be vaccinated. That is the problem,” he added.

Duterte also said a person’s decision whether or not to be vaccinated will also affect the government’s herd immunity goal. The government, he said, will respect the people’s choice for their health.

With the government’s target to vaccinate up to 70 million people this year, the President said the country’s goal is to attain herd immunity by next year. 

“I have no reference except that I cannot recall now how many articles I have read about herd immunity. Ang Pilipinas towards the end of — mga early next year pa, early next year,” he said.

The President however admitted that his projection on the country’s herd immunity could be wrong, saying his knowledge on the matter is “inadequate.”

“If you ask a doctor, he would give you the same answer maybe. Maybe not, I’m wrong pero sabi ko ‘yon lang ang gina — ‘yon lang nabasa ko what I have read from international magazines,” he said.

“I must confess my incomplete and inadequate knowledge dito sa bagay na ‘to (on this matter),” he said.

The government is expected to begin the free inoculations Monday after the country received its first batch of coronavirus vaccines from China.  The 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines have been donated by China to the Philippines as part of his friendship amid these challenging times. Some government officials, health workers, and uniformed personnel are among the first to get inoculated against the virus.

The government is trying to balance the safe reopening of the economy while protecting public health as the pandemic left over half a million infected and weakened local economic growth. As of Feb. 28, the country has recorded 523,321 cases of coronavirus with 12,129 deaths.