Curbing the spread of the Omicron virus strain is not easy if the Philippines lags in the vaccination rollout. Restricting the mobility of the unvaccinated population in Metro Manila and later in the rest of the country is reasonable to a certain extent, but unless a greater number of people are inoculated, the infection will not easily go away.
The Philippines still has a low vaccination rate compared with other nations in Asia. It may have secured enough supply to vaccinate the entire population, yet the inoculation rate is wanting. It is either local government units are not up to the task or the vaccine supplies have not reached them yet.
The Philippines, per latest statistics available, has fully vaccinated 48.7 percent of its population of about 109 million. That compares with 79 percent in Japan, 57.9 percent in Vietnam, 83.5 percent in South Korea and 79.3 percent in Malaysia.
Thailand has given two doses to 65.1 percent of its population, while Cambodia, one of the poorer countries in Southeast Asia, has vaccinated 81.9 percent of its people. The Philippines clearly has a lot of catching up to do in the vaccination race. It even falls behind the global vaccination rate of 50.3 percent.
The Philippines, however, is still lucky despite the sharp rise in daily COVID-19 cases. The Omicron variant seems to be mild as it not overwhelming the capacity of our hospitals. Just 43 percent of intensive care units in hospitals nationwide are being used to treat COVID-19 and other patients, while only 24 percent of ventilators are being activated, suggesting that many of those infected are merely isolating themselves at home.
Vaccinating the other half of the Philippine population remains a logistical problem for local government units. Governors, mayors and other elected officials must reach out to their constituents to deliver the vaccines. A proactive strategy or door-to-door visits may be effective in remote areas of the country, along with the establishment of vaccination sites in urban centers.
The government as it stands now does not have the moral ascendancy to limit the mobility rights of the unvaccinated people. Many still do not have access to the vaccines.