Duterte gov't 'confident' 70% of Filipinos can get COVID-19 vaccine in 2021

The Duterte administration expects to achieve its target of vaccinating around 70% of the Philippine population against COVID-19 in 2021.

The government has been criticized over the pace of the coronavirus vaccine rollout, which officially began on March 1 and remains limited to medical frontliners.

So far, the Philippines has received 1.1 million vaccine doses – 600,000 Sinovac doses donated by China and 525,600 AstraZeneca shots given through the global COVAX Facility.

"To date, almost 90% of the vaccines we have on hand have already been deployed within the past two weeks. They have already been dispatched to far-flung areas such as Batanes in Northern Luzon, and to the southernmost island province of Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao," said vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr in a statement on Sunday, March 14.

The country is aiming to secure a total of 148 million doses in 2021, good for around 70 million Filipinos out of the population of over 100 million.

Galvez reiterated that the global supply of vaccines is limited and most of the doses produced were "pre-ordered already by rich countries."

The Philippines, added Galvez, will "significantly pick up the pace" of its vaccination program "when the bulk of the vaccine supplies start arriving" by the 2nd quarter of 2021.

"The Duterte administration is confident that it is on track in implementing its immunization program and optimistic that it would be able to achieve its target of inoculating about 70% of the country's population within this year," he said.

Galvez's remarks come as the country sees a fresh spike in COVID-19 cases, triggering criticism that there has been little progress in one year of fighting the coronavirus.

On Sunday, the Department of Health recorded 4,899 new cases, bringing the total to 621,498. Of the total cases, 48,157 are active.

Metro Manila will impose a two-week curfew beginning Monday, March 15, as mayors have expressed alarm over the rising number of COVID-19 cases. On the exact same day in 2020, the capital region went into lockdown on orders of President Rodrigo Duterte. – Rappler.com