A mask-free Christmas will not be realized this year because of the scarce supply of COVID-19 vaccines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said Friday.
“It looks like that will be delayed,” Duque said, referring to the goal of a mask-free Christmas.
Duque, in an interview on radio dzBB, said there is a high chance that the COVID-19 vaccination campaign would run until 2022.
Duque said the country would need around 25 million doses each month to achieve population protection in the next 130 to 140 days.
“Let’s not keep our hopes up for that because we’ll just end up frustrated since we don’t control the supply,” he said.
The Philippines has only received over 23 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines since the launch of its vaccination program in March.
Over 10 million people have received at least one shot, more than 4.2 million of whom have completed both doses, still far from the government’s target of vaccinating 70 million people to achieve herd immunity.
In June, Malacañang expressed optimism that Filipinos would enjoy a mask-free Christmas this year based on projections by the OCTA Research group.
On the other hand, the DOH is optimistic that it can reach its target of administering 500,000 vaccine jabs daily by August.
“Our assumption is we will reach 500,000 jabs per day. Yesterday, we already reached the highest– 392,000 jabs. The day before, it was 352,000 jabs. What’s the target? 500,000 jabs a day,” Duque told reporters on the sidelines of the arrival of the China Airlines flight carrying 1,150,800 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines procured by the private sector on Friday.
A portion of the jabs will also be donated to local government units.
Once the country achieves this goal, Duque said population protection is achievable in 130 days.
The country is also focused on administering second dose vaccines to Filipinos.
“I think, hopefully by next month, we should be able to reach it. It is because the second dose is aggressively being pushed since we cannot only have the first dose. We have to do a second dose, in fact, it counts more, when you talk about herd immunity,” Duque added.
On the other hand, National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. is expecting 16 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to arrive in the country this month.
Over 3 million jabs are expected to arrive in the country on Saturday — 1.5 million Sinovac jabs and 1.6 million single-dose vaccines from Johnson & Johnson.
“We have huge prospects that our volumes will be good. We see that our supplies have stabilized because when I reported to the President when we have a 10 million buffer, our projection will improve. Our buffer now is at 7.5 million,” he said.
Galvez added that the country has received a total of 23,181,510 doses of vaccines from China (Sinovac), the United Kingdom (AstraZeneca), Russia (Sputnik V), and the United States (Pfizer-BioNtech).
The Philippines on Friday received 1.6 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine that were donated by the United States government.
This was part of the 3.2 million doses of the single-shot J&J vaccine donated by the US through the COVAX facility.
The second batch of the J&J vaccines is expected to arrive on Saturday, bringing the total to 3,213,200 doses.
More than 3.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine are expected to arrive today (Saturday), bringing to 5.891 million the total doses of vaccine received by the country within two days.
Five shipments of vaccine, including those manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, were scheduled to land at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-Terminal 3 on Friday and Saturday.
The 1.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccine from China were scheduled first to arrive at the airport around 7:35 a.m. today aboard Cebu Pacific Air flight 5J-671.
This will be followed by a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine consisting of 554,200 doses, which is expected to land at the NAIA around 9:35 a.m. on board China Airlines flight CI-701.
The third shipment consists of at least 1.63 million doses of J&J vaccine and is set to arrive around 4:15 p.m. aboard Emirates flight EK-332.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said July and August were crucial in achieving the country’s target of vaccinating a majority of the country’s population against COVID-19 by the end of the year.
Nograles said the faster rollout of vaccines would be a key factor for a stronger economic rebound from the pandemic.
Nograles said in the National Capital Region, many people have already received their first dose of the vaccine. He expects the trend will be the same in the provinces in the coming months.
National Economic and Development Authority Assistant Secretary Carlos Abad Santos said the further reopening of the economy and the easing of quarantine restrictions would depend on the number of infections and the trajectory of new cases.
“The IATF puts a lot of effort in making sure that the declaration of restriction is science based and backed by data… Once there is improvement in the number of cases and capacity of our health facilities, we can further reopen the economy to improve our GDP and employment,” Abad Santos said.
Gross domestic product (GDP) in the first quarter declined by 4.2 percent, an improvement from the 8.3 percent contraction a quarter ago, but deeper than the 0.7 percent decline a year ago.
Economic managers earlier projected a 6-7 percent GDP growth this year, a turnaround from the 9.6-percent contraction last year, the worst since World War II, due to the pandemic.
In the second quarter alone, economic managers see GDP registering a positive number, following five quarters of contraction since early last year.
Also on Friday, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 said vaccine wastage poses health risks and local government units will be sanctioned if they are found guilty of this.
Galvez said that LGUs found mishandling COVID-19 jabs will have their supplies slashed.
With limited supply, Galvez said the country cannot afford to have vaccine wastage.