Race against time over Omicron fears: ‘National Vaccination Days’ begin Monday

Published November 28, 2021, 2:27 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Everything is set for the launch of the first round of the “National Vaccination Days” on Monday, Nov. 29, which aims to inoculate nine million Filipinos against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. holds a virtual press briefing on Nov. 28, 2021 ahead of the launching of the “National Vaccination Days” against COVID-19 on Nov. 29, 2021. (Screenshot from RTVM livestream)

Dubbed as “Bayanihan, Bakunahan,” the three-day immunization program will be held across 16 regions outside the National Capital Region (NCR) until Dec. 1 to increase their capacity to vaccinate their residents.

“Handang-handa na po ang buong sambayan para sa ating Bayanihan, Bakunahan. Prepared na prepared na po ang ating NVOC [National Vaccination Operations Center] (The whole country is well prepared for the Bayanihan, Bakunahan. The NVOC is already prepared),” Galvez said in a virtual presser on Sunday, Nov. 28.

“Magparticipate po tayo sa National Vaccination Days. I encourage all agencies at mga kababayan na magparticipate at magvolunteer. Ang ano natin ay maging successful ito, hopefully we can gather more [people] na ma-vaccinate,” he added.

Although the initiative targets to inoculate at least nine million individuals, Galvez bared that they have deployed 15 million to 38 million doses on the ground to ensure that there will be no deficiency in supplies.

“Actually ang target is 15 million so ang vaccination, we have more or less one million in each reserve. Ang dineploy na mga vaccination ay more or less 15 million para sa different vaccination sites… and 38 million nakapagdeploy sa field,” the vaccine czar stated.

Further, there are about 36,000 vaccination teams and 8,000 to 11,000 vaccination sites that will be activated for the vaccination days.

Around 30,000 individuals have also committed to volunteer for the program although the government initially eyed to have 160,000 volunteers.

A second leg of the vaccination drive will take place from Dec. 15 to 17 to offset the decreased target vaccination output of the NTF. The task force initially aimed to vaccinate 15 million individuals for the National Vaccination Days but due to the lack of syringes and manpower in some local government units, this had to be adjusted to a lower target.

Galvez said that the success of the vaccination drive will be crucial just as the emergence of the new Omicron (B1.1.529) variant of the coronavirus serves as a grim reminder that COVID-19 has not yet been fully defeated. It is feared to have been more contagious than the Delta variant.

“Nakita po natin tayo ay nagkakaroon ng another challenges. Iyong Omicron is creating havoc not only in Europe but also in American Peninsula. Nadetect na rin siya sa ilang areas na nasa green [list] countries natin,” Galvez said.

“Ang aming panawagan sa lahat ng ating mga kababayan, ‘yong wala pang bakuna ay magpabakuna na tayo. During the onslaught ng Delta, karamihan sa casualties at severe cases – 85 percent – ay unvaccinated,” he appealed to the unvaccinated population.

Galvez also reminded the public to continue using face masks, practice social distancing, and avoid crowded areas. He bared that the NTF is also mulling to recommend to the policy-making Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) the use of face shields once again as an added layer of protection against COVID-19.

“Pinapaalalahanan natin ang publiko na ang panlaban sa pandemya ay bakuna at disiplina,” he stressed.

By the end of the first leg of the National Vaccination Days, Galvez said the NTF wants to raise to 54 million the number of Filipinos who have received their first dose. As of Saturday, around 45 million individuals have been given with their first shot.

Then, the NTF will target to fully vaccinate 77 million people by the end of the first quarter of 2022, which is equivalent to 70 percent of the total 110 million population of the country. By doing this, Galvez said the country will achieve population protection in time for the May 2022 elections.

Meanwhile, the NTF further raised to 90 million the number of people who must be fully vaccinated by the end of second quarter next year due to the emerging new threats of COVID-19. The rest of the general population is eyed to be fully vaccinated by the end of third quarter of 2022.