Over four months since the Philippines kicked off its COVID-19 immunization drive, it’s official: one city has finally inoculated 100% of its target population.
San Juan – Metro Manila’s least populous city – hit the milestone on Sunday, July 11, after the number of first-dose shots administered by the local government surpassed 96,610, or around 78% of its total population.
Seventy percent of the country's population was the COVID-19 vaccination target set by the Duterte administration for 2021 to reach herd immunity.
National government officials were at the Greenhills Shopping Center on Monday, July 12, to mark the milestone. Among them were Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, COVID-19 testing czar Vince Dizon, and Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez.
San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora, who spearheaded what was arguably the fastest vaccination rollout by a city in the Philippines, helmed Monday’s event.
Given the city's rate of vaccination, Zamora said San Juan would "be able to achieve herd immunity by end of August this year."
In the same event, San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora admitted he received a Sinopharm dose in December. Illegal inoculations of President Rodrigo Duterte's allies, long before the official arrival of vaccines in the country in February, have cast a long shadow over the government's pandemic response.
Despite the milestone for San Juan, the Philippines remains miles away from the COVID-19 pandemic finish line.
As of early July, 11 of Metro Manila’s 17 localities have yet to inoculate half of their target populations against the coronavirus. These include cities like Quezon City and Caloocan, which have seven-digit populations, unlike San Juan.
The cities in the National Capital Region (NCR) were also unable to sustain momentum in their vaccination programs due to the insufficient supply of COVID-19 doses from the national government.
Vaccination numbers in many provinces outside Metro Manila are also much lower, after the national government prioritized NCR and eight other key areas for vaccine deployment.
As of July 8, there were only 3.2 million fully vaccinated individuals against COVID-19 in the country, out of the 9.4 million people who have received their first dose.
The Philippines is now in a race against time to vaccinate more people amid the threat of the highly transmissible Delta variant.
As of July 11, the country was still grappling with 49,000 active COVID-19 infections, 18 months since the Department of Health confirmed the entry of the dreaded virus on Philippine shores. – Rappler.com