Filipinos have reason to expect a “better Christmas” this year as the government aims to achieve “herd containment” in September followed by “herd immunity” in November. Thus declared Secretary Carlito Galvez, the country’s vaccine czar, in a report during President Duterte’s weekly address to the nation last May 10.
From 4.1 million doses as of end-April, 3.515 million doses were delivered up to May 9. Substantial deliveries totaling 7.3 million doses starting May 10 would boost the delivered supplies to 11.4 million doses by end-May. In June, an additional 9.15 million doses will arrive, increasing total supplies to 20.514 million doses.
The pace of vaccination will be stepped up. According to the Department of Health (DOH), 2.409 million Filipinos from the first three priority groups — frontline health care personnel, senior citizens and citizens with comorbidities — have been vaccinated as of May 9. This represents 60 percent of the 4.010 million vaccines deployed in 3,410 vaccination sites nationwide.
Next only to Indonesia, the Philippines now holds the second-best vaccination record in the ASEAN region, with a 7-day moving average of 65,869 doses or nearly double the average daily rate of 34,418 since the start of vaccination last March 1. Out of 47 Asian countries, the Philippines now ranks 15th; it ranks 41st out of 194 countries worldwide.
To attain the ‘better Christmas’ scenario, Galvez unveiled a new Focus and Expand – Center of Gravity Strategy. The National Capital Region plus the six provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite and Batangas; Metro Cebu and Metro Davao will be the focal points of an accelerated vaccine rollout and massive immunization. These areas are billed as the nation’s “center of gravity,” accounting for about 72 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
On closer analysis, Galvez’s highly optimistic scenario is based on broadband forecasts. “Herd containment” that is sought to be attained in September is premised on vaccinating a low of 25 million to a high of 50 million citizens. The objective is to reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and death.
The low-end target of 25 million is ten times the number of Filipinos vaccinated to date. This implies a tremendous expansion in vaccination sites, personnel and facilities. Clearly, private business and industry must weigh in significantly to achieve a quantum leap in logistical capacity and efficiency that will enable the attainment of the government’s lofty aspirations.
While the government’s high-end forecasts appear to be more aspirational than realistic, it is still the duty of all concerned Filipinos to close ranks and work toward attaining not just a ‘better Christmas’ but full recovery from the economic crisis spawned by the pandemic.