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Amid problems in some vaccination sites, DOH bullish on hitting herd immunity in 'NCR Plus 8' by November

Published May 19, 2021 8:41 pm

The Department of Health is targeting to achieve herd immunity in Metro Manila and eight other areas by November, even as other vaccination sites are beset with issues and a steady supply of vaccines is not expected until the second half of the year.

Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said during a public briefing today that they are planning to inoculate over a hundred thousand individuals per day in Metro Manila, Batangas, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, Rizal, Metro Cebu and Metro Cebu once a steady supply of vaccines arrives. 

“Ang target natin ay by November at least for NCR Plus,” Cabotaje said.

The World Health Organization defines herd immunity as the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population achieves a certain level of vaccination or through previous infection. For measles, herd immunity is reached when 95% is vaccinated while for polio, the threshold is 80%.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez has maintained the target to reach herd immunity for the country by year-end, but has said earlier this month that it may be better to have prioritization of areas “that have economic and social importance,” like Metro Manila, due to the inadequate vaccine supply. 

Steady supply
Cabotaje said she expects supply to become “steady” by June when the country receives 10 to 11 million doses.

Cabotaje said that the total doses administered so far is at 3.2 million, of which 786,528 were for the second dose and 1,129 were for the first dose. 

The country has also received 7.7 million doses so far from the four brands Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Sputnik V Gamaleya and Pfizer BioNTech. Of the total received, 36% or 2.7 million went to Metro Manila.

Non-announcement of vaccine
Cabotaje acknowledged the issues in vaccination sites in Manila and Parañaque, where residents swarmed a vaccination site, leading to fears of a COVID-19 superspreader event. To prevent this from happening, Cabotaje said local government units should not advertise what brands are available as many residents reportedly showed up, some despite having no confirmation schedules, in hopes of getting the Pfizer jab.

"Maybe one of the strategies that can be made is hindi na i-a-announce kung anong bakuna ang ibibigay. Kung gusto niyo magpabakauna pumunta kayo sa ganitong facility or vaccination sites tapos kung ano yung bakuna na available, yun ang dapat na kunin nila," said Cabotaje.

"Everybody wanted to use Pfizer and our general principle, kung anong bakuna ang available dapat kunin mo na, that will help the flow," said Cabotaje.

No confirmation, no vaccine
Parañaque public information officer Mar Jimenez told PhilSTAR L!fe that when the announcement on the availability of Pfizer vaccine was made, about 2,000 to 3,000 residents lined up at the vaccination site at Ayala Malls Manila Bay.

“Ang ginawa lang is if they did not receive any confirmation, hindi mababakunahan. May allocation per city, common denominator is the number of vaccines,” Jimenez said.

Jimenez said they will strictly enforce the “no confirmation, no vaccine” policy during the process.

“Kung hindi nakatanggap ng confirmation through SMS, wag na po magbakasakali. If you receive an SMS, wala kaduda-duda, you will receive the vaccine,” Jimenez said.

A similar incident happened at the Manila Prince Hotel in Ermita, Manila, on May 18, where thousands of residents lined up as early as midnight for the Pfizer vaccine.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno denied claims that a text blast was sent out to residents about the availability of the Pfizer vaccine.

Rethinking the strategy
Health reform advocate Dr. Tony Leachon, meanwhile, said that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases should now rethink its strategy due to the hesitancy of some Filipinos to receive certain vaccine brands.

“If vaccine hesitancy and crowding of vaccine sites are brand related, then IATF should procure more vaccines desired by the people,” Leachon said on Twitter.

“We have a huge inventory of Sinovac now -- it’s strengthened by recent clinical trials to be highly efficacious and safe. Time to rethink strategy.” (Ingrid Mendoza)

(Banner photo by KJ Rosales/The Philippine Star)