Do you remember the anxiety we had every time new COVID-19 cases were announced in our region during the first months of the pandemic? Nearing the second year of the health crisis, the fear might still be present as cases increase, but we have hope as vaccination coverage, too, ramps up.
The Philippines has so far administered more than 70 million COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Nov. 15, the Department of Health (DOH) said. How is your region fairing when it comes to vaccination?
Here are the most vaccinated regions in the Philippines, as reported by Statista last Oct. 20.
Top 10 most vaccinated regions
- National Capital Region with 9 million partially vaccinated and 7.9 million fully vaccinated
- CALABARZON with 4.4 million partially vaccinated and 3.5 million fully vaccinated
- Central Luzon with 3 million partially vaccinated and 2.4 million fully vaccinated
- Central Visayas with 1.6 million partially vaccinated and 1.5 million fully vaccinated
- Western Visayas with 1.5 million partially vaccinated and 1.4 million fully vaccinated
- Davao Region with 1.3 million partially vaccinated and 1.1 million fully vaccinated
- Northern Mindanao with 1 million partially vaccinated and 886, 540 fully vaccinated
- Ilocos Region with 1 million partially vaccinated and 828, 180 fully vaccinated
- Bicol Region with 811, 400 partially vaccinated and 729, 690 fully vaccinated
- Eastern Visayas with 748, 740 partially vaccinated and 630, 040 fully vaccinated
Call for equitable vaccine distribution
While we celebrate the increase in vaccination rates in several regions, we shall also look after the areas that need more support in their inoculation drive.
WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe last month noted the “inequitable situation with regard to access to vaccines” in the regions outside the NCR and huge cities. Since the vaccine supply increased, he told local government units in the regions to accelerate vaccination among the priority groups.
The Philippines continues to exhaust all means possible to increase the vaccine supply that will deliver the country at the end of this tunnel. It has reached more than 100 million in total vaccine doses obtained since the initial vaccine delivery in February. The government also announced the anticipated deliveries of around 50 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses within this year.
Boosted vaccine supply
The country procured 13 million vaccine doses under the Philippines US$500 million COVID-19 Emergency Response Project Additional Financing approved by the World Bank. Of the total procured doses, 4.73 million doses have arrived in the country as of Oct. 19, while the remaining doses are set to be delivered by next month.
Apart from this, the country’s ongoing fight against COVID-19 is backed by the steady vaccine supply from the COVAX Facility. COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
The Philippines gets equitable access to vaccines like other countries in the world, thanks to UNICEF, which organizes the international vaccine transport for COVAX. UNICEF works with vaccine manufacturers and key implementing partners to have the priority groups like the vulnerable elderly people and those with underlying health conditions be protected against the infectious disease, the UNICEF COVAX page stated.
COVAX Facility is made possible through the commitment of several private and government groups, including Team Europe, which covers EU Institutions and the 27 member states. The team is on track with its goal to share 200 million doses with low and lower-middle-income countries, like the Philippines, by the end of 2021. Team Europe has provided nearly €3 billion to the COVAX Facility to reach its target on vaccine sharing.
The German government, through the COVAX facility, has donated 884, 800 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Philippines. AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is not recommended for people younger than 18 years of age pending more study results, the WHO said. Half of the vaccines produced in Europe were exported by the European Union to other countries.
The German-donated vaccine doses in the Philippines last Oct. 15 brought the total available doses of the country to 89.4 million, including the 24.3 million delivered through the COVAX Facility.
Mr. Alexander Schmidt, Acting Deputy of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, emphasized that sending the additional doses to the Philippines through the COVAX vaccine platform shows the strong solidarity and partnership between the two countries.
Health Secretary Dr. Francisco Duque has recognized the boost of vaccine supply from Germany, saying that it complements the Philippines’ current capacity “as the vaccination strategy shifts from priority groups towards the general population.” He also stressed the importance of having vulnerable elderly people and those with underlying health conditions protected by the vaccines.
The prioritization of senior citizens in the vaccination has been urged by WHO authorities. Abeyasinghe recognized that many regions in the Philippines have high infection transmission rates. These regions, Abeyasinghe said, have low vaccination coverage even among its vulnerable elderly people.
Aside from the safety of the elderly, the increase in vaccine doses from Germany can help the Philippines towards ending the pandemic thus, ensuring a safer environment for every Filipino child as mobility measures ease. UNICEF Philippines Representative Ms. Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said that the vaccination drive is an aspect of a bigger strategy to strengthen health systems for children and their families, as well as to increase support for mental health and safety purposes.
Achieving herd immunity
With the increased vaccine supply and the growing number of people getting the shots, we can’t help but ask how far we are from attaining herd immunity.
The Philippines targets to vaccinate up to 70 percent of the eligible population within this year to reach herd immunity against infectious disease. Palace spokesperson Harry Roque recently said that the government has vaccinated almost 40 percent of the eligible Filipinos, and the Philippines can achieve its inoculation target if almost 1 million people receive vaccine doses every day.
While we are working to achieve herd immunity, the health department continues to ask the public to adhere to basic health measures like wearing face masks and observing proper hand hygiene. We are also told to stay at home as much as possible to stop the spread of the virus.
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