MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte later Monday will deliver his final State of the Nation Address to a public still mostly unvaccinated against a virus that has forced the world to grind to a halt.
Almost five months into the government's inoculation campaign, some 6.08 million out of a total 109.03 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, latest data posted by the Department of Health shows.
This is equivalent to just 5.58% of the population.
Another 11.11 million Filipinos have received one of two doses needed for full inoculation, equivalent to 10.18% of the population.
As it has with otherkey pandemic response measures, the government has had to walk back its target of achieving herd immunity in the country— which entails fully vaccinating 70% of the population — by November.
In May, this target shifted to achieving herd immunity in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao and six other provinces in Central Luzon and in southern Luzon — these areas account for 60% of the country's economy — by November 27.
A few weeks later, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said the government would be shifting its target to "population protection" because "herd immunity has a lot of attached criteria."
Population protection, the health undersecretary said, entails the prevention of hospitalization and the minimizing of deaths through mass immunization.
A presidential adviser has floated the idea of "micro herd immunity", or vaccinating 80% of people in a "closed group".
The official overseeing the country's vaccination program, Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., earlier this month told the government's pandemic task force that it would be "a big challenge" to achieve herd immunity in the country before the year is out.
To do so, with its total target population at 77.74 million, the government would have to fully vaccinate another 71.66 million Filipinos in less than six months.
Vaccine hesitancy and vaccines with special permits
Another significant challenge faced by the government's inoculation program is the relatively high vaccine hesitancy rate among Filipinos.
Duterte, who earlier pinned his hopes on the life-saving jabs amid criticism of his lockdowns which critics and medical frontliners have scored as militarized rather than rooted in science, opted to receive a vaccine developed by Chinese state-run firm Sinopharm which was covered by a special permit and not available to the rest of the public.
Undermining his own health agencies, he also bared last year that several members of his security group had been inoculated with smuggled Sinopharm shots. They were later granted special emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
When Duterte delivers his final SONA at the Batasang Pambansa, he will be addressing the country with the second-worst outbreak of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia, trailing only Indonesia with 1.54 million cases and 27,224 deaths as of Monday.
Health authorities last Thursday also confirmed the local transmission of the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country. Duterte presided over an "emergency" meeting with his pandemic task force two days later.
Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com