Herd immunity in the Philippines will depend on how fast it can vaccinate at least 70 million people, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Friday, citing the delays in the arrival of the jabs.
Under a "worst case," herd immunity can be achieved by the first quarter of 2022, Duque told ANC's Headstart. The original goal was to achieve it by Christmas this year.
Herd immunity by Christmas could be achieved if vaccines start arriving in bulk by June, Duque said. Using mostly donated jabs from China and the COVAX vaccine equity alliance, the Philippines has so far innoculated two million people, or less than 3% of the 70 million goal.
"This is all government by adequacy of supply. If supply is inadequate, it will take you much longer to achieve herd immunity," Duque said.
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Her immunity, according to the World Health Organization, means that a population is immune to a viral disease, like COVID-19, either through vaccination or previous infection. For COVID-19, the WHO supports herd immunity through vaccination.
Duque said there was "incontrovertible" evidence that the COVID surge was slowing down after a month of strict quarantines, which was extended for two weeks in Metro Manila, Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal.
Until May 14, the MECQ will remain in force in the so-called NCR Plus Bubble.
Duque was asked if the surge in the Philippines could worse to the one in India, now considered the world's COVID-19 epicenter.
"Well, pagka hindi tayo sumunod sa ating minimum public health standards and we do not intensify our COVID pandemic response, like what has happened in India and also in some other countries where the second or third waves are being experienced, that’s a big possibility," he said.
Duque said it would be "pointless" to compare the Philippines' response to other countries since the context is different. In India, the surge was preceded by religious festivals that were feared to be superspreader events.
"It's very difficult comparing. There will always be better countries, or worse countries, better than us. It's pointless because the response is dynamic. It must take into consideration what the structure is," he said.