The numbers keep on rising and we’re not talking about new COVID-19 cases. The rising numbers are those of fully-vaccinated citizens residing in Metro Manila, allowing cities such as San Juan, Las Piñas, Marikina, Taguig, and Mandaluyong to declare herd immunity.
Other cities are not left out, too. Manila, Makati, Quezon City, Pasig are also vaccinating residents at a fast-paced level, with only a few thousand jabs left for them to achieve herd immunity. In fact, early this week, Malacañang has announced that a total of around 8.3 million residents in Metro Manila have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, translating to 85 percent of the target population to be vaccinated. This is indeed welcome news, something the nation needs after months of lockdowns, restrictions, and anxiety-inducing announcements.
Herd immunity against COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization, should be achieved by protecting people through vaccination. “WHO supports achieving 'herd immunity' through vaccination, not by allowing a disease to spread through any segment of the population, as this would result in unnecessary cases and deaths.”
The WHO further explained: “When a substantial proportion of a population are vaccinated, the overall amount of virus that is able to spread in the whole population is lowered. Vaccines train our immune systems to create proteins that fight disease, known as ‘antibodies.’ Vaccinated people are protected from getting the disease and passing on the pathogen, breaking any chains of transmission.”
With the rise in the number of vaccinated citizens and the arrival of more vaccines in the country, the IATF is now recommending the “simultaneous approach to inoculation,” allowing those who want to get a jab of the vaccine have easy access to one. As the vaccination is also now open to minors, some health experts have projected that the entire NCR may achieve herd immunity by Christmas, advancing their original target of herd protection by Election Day a few months earlier.
Once NCR heaves a sigh of relief, the government must train its sight on the provinces. Nationwide, data has shown that only around 30 percent of the target population have been fully vaccinated, way much lower than the 70 percent target for the entire country to achieve herd immunity.
It’s not yet late and it’s not impossible. The early declaration of herd immunity in NCR cities is proof of the importance of synergy among the national government, the local government, and the frontline health workers. The procurement of vaccines was done in a timely manner. Then, the online registration systems of the LGUs were efficient enough to allow citizens to be vaccinated in an orderly fashion, with senior citizens at the front lines. After that, there’s also the collective effort of thousands of medical workers and volunteers who spent their day inoculating the millions of citizens who trooped to the gyms, classrooms, malls, and city halls, with some inoculators even extending their stay to night just to make sure that the jab reaches more arms.
Even with this welcome news, the pandemic is not yet declared over. A new COVID variant from Mauritius has just entered the country and health experts are proceeding with vigilance on this one. Even though a lot of citizens are vaccinated, there’s wisdom in choosing to side with caution and strictly following health protocols. Otherwise, if COVID cases rise once again, it would be another round of holiday parties via Zoom for all of us.