Galvez hails first year of vax program as COVID-19 restrictions ease

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. deemed as a success the national vaccination program against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) since the least restrictive Alert Level 1 status was already implemented in Metro Manila and at least 38 other areas beginning Tuesday, March 1.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. speaks during President Duterte's public address on Feb 28, 2022. (Courtesy of RTVM livestream)

On the same day, the government marked the first year anniversary of the national vaccination program against COVID-19.

To recall, it was on March 1, 2021 when the first batch of Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccines from China were administered to medical frontliners at the Philippine General Hospital.

Back then, the country had no other means of vaccine supply other than the 600,000 doses of Sinovac that were donated by the Chinese government on Feb. 28, 2021.

"Twelve months following the first vaccine shot, we are now lowering our level of restrictions to the minimum. This only proves that the vaccine works. We are thankful to all our kababayans for heeding to the government's clarion call in practicing the minimum public health standards and for getting the jabs," Galvez said during the Talk to the People address of President Duterte on Monday night, Feb. 28.

During the first few months of the national vaccination program, the vaccines came in trickles due to the high global demand and limited supply. There were times when the country only received a couple of million vaccine doses a month.

"The key was to work closely with the medical experts, local government units (LGUs), diplomatic corps, WHO and the private sector to maximize our limited inventory of vaccines. We ensured those in the medical field and the vulnerable sectors of society were given primary protection first," he said.

The vaccination drive started to pick up by the fourth quarter of last year as bigger vaccines deliveries started to arrive in the country.

Vaccination drive

As of Feb. 27, a total of 63,092,684 Filipinos have already been fully vaccinated which comprised 80.78 percent of the country’s target population of 75 million Filipinos, and 56.55 percent of the nation’s total population of 110 million.

“With more than 80 percent of our country’s target population now fully vaccinated, we are confident that we can achieve our goal of vaccinating 90 million Filipinos by the end of the second quarter, and administer at least 72.16 booster shots by the end of the year,” Galvez said.

Meanwhile, there were 62,248,624 individuals who have had their first dose while 10,137,875 people have received their booster shots.

More than 225 million vaccine doses were received by the government so far and around 90 million doses were stored in government stockpile.

“I commend our LGUs, our partners in the private sector for successfully carrying out your COVID-19 response efforts as well as your vaccination drive. Through your concerted efforts, the NCR and 38 other areas will be placed under the loosest restrictions,” Galvez said.

The vaccine czar said he wants the rest of the country to be placed under Alert Level 1 so that their economies can further open up and recover faster. But in order to achieve this, they must be able to meet certain criteria.

“For other areas that want to be placed under Alert Level, they have to vaccinate at least 80 percent of their senior citizens and 70 percent of their eligible population, as well be placed in the minimal to low-risk classification and have a COVID-19 bed utilization rate of less than 50 percent,” Galvez said.

"We should continue to build the wall of protection. We are calling our LGUs to ramp up our booster shots to sustain our protection against COVID-19," he said.