Celebrate with caution as we aim for population protection

Published December 2, 2021, 12:02 AM

by Manila Bulletin

The three-day National Vaccination Days, which concluded yesterday, Dec. 1, 2021, was one for the books. It may not have reached its original target of a total 15 million vaccinations (and later scaled down to nine million), but it was a success, with the first day alone setting a world record at 2.5 million jabs — garnering fifth spot among countries with the highest single-day vaccination.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. was satisfied with the result, noting that it was “double compared to the output during the ordinary days of vaccination where only around one million jabs are being administered per day.” Add to that, the majority of the administered jabs were for first dosing at almost two million, with around 300,000 administered as second dose and 50,000 doses for booster shots.

“Our objective is to really accelerate the first dosing,” Galvez said, echoing the national government’s rally to encourage vaccination especially to those who are hesitant.

With 2.5 million jabs, the first day found Filipinos in vaccination sites all over the country — from a gym in Bulacan, a movie house in Manila, a classroom in Cebu, to a multi-purpose hall in Zamboanga. The call for volunteerism was felt as the Department of Health (DOH) commended all the medical frontliners, some even in their military fatigue, giving jabs to people from all walks of life.

LGUs also cooperated with their personnel showing up in full force and doing essential tasks such as verification, food or water distribution, and encoding of data. Some LGUs even had gimmicks to lure people in and to promote the vaccination drive. One LGU even partnered with a real estate company to raffle off a house-and-lot grand prize to one lucky vaccinated individual. Not all LGUs could afford a house-and-lot as a prize but they were able to give grocery items, packs of rice, or pandemic essentials to the vaccinated. A town in Pampanga raffled off a cow, something that was so anticipated that it drove the vaccination figures up in that area.

The rise in the number of vaccinated Filipinos, plus the low transmission rate of new COVID cases (which didn’t break the 1,000 mark this week), and the arrival of new vaccine supplies are a cause for celebration. The country is on its track to achieve some form of population protection by year end.

Before celebrations can go full blast, the World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned countries such as the Philippines to avoid “having a sense of false security” in light of the heavily mutated Omicron coronavirus variant.  Though the vaccines may offer protection against death and severe illness, the WHO warned that these may not fully shield us against the virus as effectively as a face mask. There is still the need for all to observe strict health protocols as these may be the only practical, cost-effective, and rational ways to protect us and our loved ones.

With anxiety rising once again because of the Omicron, the WHO urged nations to keep calm and take rational measures — and one of them is to make sure that vaccine jabs go to as many arms as possible.

The President seems to be listening and in his most recent address, this was his target expectation: “By the end of 2021, we expect to fully vaccinate a total of 54 million Filipinos; we also aim to inoculate 80 percent of the population of minors aged 12 to 17 years; and complete the booster shots for those belonging to A1, A2, and A3 sectors.” To the President, this we say: “Thy will be done.”