Members of the Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) on Thursday said there is a need to raise the country’s target from 70 percent to 99 or even 100 percent, for herd immunity from COVID-19 because of the threat of the highly contagious Delta variant.
“We need to aim higher and do it faster... This Delta variant is a real concern,” VEP head Dr. Nina Gloriani said in a Department of Health (DOH) forum.
Gloriani said the goal should be to vaccinate “100 percent” of the population.
“For us to get a better immunity at the population level, maybe we should increase our target in a scenario where we have the Delta variant,” VEP member Dr. Rontgene Solante added.
The government is aiming to vaccinate some 70 million Filipinos out of the country’s 109-million population.
Last week, the DOH confirmed local transmission of the more transmissible Delta variant.
Solante said it was important to determine what percentage of COVID-19 cases have the Delta variant so as to adjust the herd immunity target.
“This is the experience with US, with UK, wherein they now want 100 percent vaccination of all the population because of the variant,” Solante said.
Despite this recommendation, she said health workers and the elderly will continue to be prioritized in the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines over children and adolescents.
She also said booster shots would probably only be recommended for a special-need segment of the population.
The Philippines has inoculated over 11 million people as of July 25, some 6 million of whom have been fully vaccinated.
The country has so far recorded 119 Delta variant cases, 16 of which remain active.
The Palace on Thursday clarified a statement by President Rodrigo Duterte, saying not everyone who wants a COVID-19 jab can get one yet.
Duterte in a late-night address on Wednesday said, “Give the vaccines to those who want to be vaccinated,” as he expressed concern over the contagious Delta variant that is ripping through Southeast Asia, now a global epicenter for the virus.
Gloriani, meanwhile, said people should not wander around even after completing their COVID-19 vaccination, contradicting the President, who said he did “not have any qualms about people going out if they have completed their inoculation against the coronavirus.
Gloriano warned fully vaccinated people they could still get “breakthrough infections” if they roam around with unvaccinated companions.
DOH Epidemiology Bureau director Dr. Alethea De Guzman, on the other hand, said that while the government has allowed fully vaccinated senior citizens to go out, they are still required to follow COVID-19 protocols.
The Philippines on Thursday got 1.5 million doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine, the first of the two shipments the country scheduled to receive from China this week.
The additional 1 million doses is set to arrive this (Friday) morning at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport - Terminal 3 also aboard Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) flight 5J-723.
The two shipments were pre-cleared by the Bureau of Customs, through the Port of NAIA.
NAIA district collector Carmelita Talusan said since February 2021, more than 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been cleared and released by the bureau.
She said of the total number, 16 million are Sinovac, 6.8 million AstraZeneca, 350,000 Sputnik V, 3.4 million Pfizer, 500,000 Moderna, and 3.2 million Johnson & Johnson.
The latest shipments will be transported to the cold-chain facility of Pharmaserv Express in Marikina City where the doses will be kept for safety before they are distributed to various local government units.
Marikina City Mayor Marcy Teodoro guaranteed the safety of vaccines being stored at Pharmaserv amid the flooding and thunderstorms being experienced in Metro Manila.
He said the vaccines are safe from floods as the firm’s storage area is situated at the second floor of the facility in Barangay San Roque.