The government has lowered its target of giving 23 million booster shots during the first 100 days of the Marcos administration, given the slow uptake in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
In a statement, Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said instead of aiming to inoculate 50 percent of all people eligible for boosters, the DOH will aim to vaccinate 30 percent by Oct. 8, and shoot for 50 percent by the end of the year.
She noted that some regions, including Metro Manila, have already achieved the 50 percent booster vaccination coverage.
As of Sept. 18, some 2,708,323 people received their first booster dose under the “PinasLakas” campaign, data from DOH showed.
Only 31,939 out of 1.07 million target senior citizens or those belonging to A2 category were given booster jabs under the program.
“We are doubling down on our campaign to reach and even surpass our target of 30 percent by Oct. 8 and 50 percent by the end of the year,” Vergeire said.
“This is why we are working with our different government agencies to target specific sectors and encourage people to get vaccinated by providing incentives,” she added.
Vergeire called on the public to participate in the campaign.
Meanwhile, a former adviser of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 said relaxing border restrictions further to foreign travelers may result in other COVID-19 variants entering the country.
Dr. Ted Herbosa’s warning was issued after Vergeire said on Tuesday that the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is set to discuss the possibility of further easing the country’s border restrictions for foreign visitors.
Herbosa said this would be risky.
“When we ease our border restrictions, other variants might enter the country… If you haven’t been infected by that variant, there’s a chance you’ll be infected with it. But if you are vaccinated, for sure you will have very mild symptoms,” he said, speaking in Filipino in a public briefing.
The IATF eased travel restrictions in February that allowed the entry of foreigners in the Philippines for business and tourism purposes under certain conditions.
Among the requirements for foreign nationals before entering the country is full vaccination against COVID-19, except for minors below 12 years old traveling with their fully vaccinated foreign parents.
Herbosa said that should border restrictions ease more, people should keep on wearing their face masks indoors so as to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The DOH on Thursday logged an increase in the COVID-19 daily tally with 2,702 new cases reported, bringing the nationwide caseload to 3,929,819.
This came after a two days straight of fewer than 2,000 daily reported COVID-19 cases.
The number of active cases went up to 28,030 from 27,284 on Wednesday.
Metro Manila remained the top region with the most cases in the recent two weeks with 12,475 cases reported.
It was followed by Calabarzon with 4,388, Central Luzon with 2,456, Davao Region with 1,279, and Western Visayas with 913.
The number of recoveries rose to 3,839,094 with 1,915 new recoveries.
The death toll climbed to 62,695 with 38 new fatalities.
The country’s bed occupancy slightly decreased to 26.8 percent, with 7,691 beds occupied while 20,992 were vacant as of Tuesday, Sept. 20.