Gov’t raises herd immunity target vs coronavirus

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE PHILIPPINES is raising its herd immunity target to protect Filipinos against a more contagious Delta coronavirus variant, according to the country’s vaccine czar.

Herd immunity would be achieved if as much as 90% of the population is vaccinated against the coronavirus, vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. told ABS-CBN Teleradyo on Wednesday.

“We may have to raise the target for herd immunity to 80-90% because of the Delta variant,” he said in Filipino.

Citizens are indirectly protected from an infectious disease when a high percentage of the population becomes immune, either through vaccination or a previous infection. It makes the spread of the disease from person to person unlikely.

Mr. Galvez said the government seeks to vaccinate 77 million Filipinos by yearend, and 90 million by the first quarter of next year.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 12,751 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 2.13 million.

The death toll rose to 34,672 after 174 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 20,151 to 1.95 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 151,135 active cases, 91.6% of which were mild, 3.7% did not show symptoms, 1.5% were severe, 2.54% were moderate and 0.7% were critical.

The agency said 54 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 46 of which were tagged as recoveries while 80 recoveries were reclassified as deaths. Five laboratories failed to submit data on Sept. 5.

The Philippines is struggling to vaccinate its entire adult population amid a spike in infections triggered by the Delta variant.

Mr. Galvez said 52.3% of Metro Manila’s target population or about five million people had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. He added that 82% or about eight million people have received their first dose.

As of Sept. 5, 35.84 million doses of coronavirus vaccines had been given out, about 15 million of which were second doses.

More vaccines are arriving in the coming months he said, adding that the country has a stable supply of vaccines from Pfizer, Inc and Sinovac Biotech Ltd. Mr. Galvez said 10 million Pfizer vaccines and about 5 million vaccines from Moderna, Inc. would arrive next month.

Meanwhile, congressmen criticized OCTA Research Group researchers for what they said were its irresponsible projections on coronavirus cases.

“Science is always objective and not subjective,” Party-list Rep. Michael Edgar Y. Aglipay told an online news briefing.

The House committee on good governance on Monday questioned the accuracy of OCTA’s projections during a hearing.

Mr. Aglipay, who heads the committee, said they would not issue a gag order against the researchers.

Marikina Rep. Stella Luz A. Quimbo said at least six projections made by OCTA had a margin of error of as high as 79.4%.

OCTA fellow Fredegusto P. David told lawmakers their projections have a “100% surge detection accuracy.”

“The important matter is our models predicted a surge, and it happened,” he said. “We only projected a surge three times, and they all happened.”

OCTA founder Ranjit Rye said they base their projections on DoH data and submit their findings to an inter-agency task force before announcing these to the public.

Party-list Rep. Jose L. Atienza, Jr. said OCTA should be barred from releasing reports on the coronavirus pandemic to avoid panic

Also on Wednesday, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” M. Domagoso III slammed the government for dismissing the concerns of Filipinos about its pandemic response.

In a livestreamed event, the former actor said the government always sees outside suggestions as being politically motivated. “This is not politics. You are just deaf,” said Mr. Moreno, who is believed to be seeking the presidency next year. He asked President Rodrigo R. Duterte to fire rude officials who do not value people’s lives.

Presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. earlier questioned Mr. Domagoso’s motives in suggesting policies given his political ambition.

Mr. Moreno on Sept. 6 urged the government to buy medicines that treat coronavirus symptoms instead of face shields.

Earlier this week, Vice-President Maria Leonor “Leni” G. Robredo said she might support a tandem between Mr. Domagoso and Senator Emmanuel D. Pacquiao just to end Mr. Duterte’s brand of governance.

She has said she would listen to the proposals of various factions critical of the administration, citing the need to form a coalition that will defeat administration bets. — Russell Louis C. Ku and Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza