From November 29 to December 1, 2021, the Philippines vaccinated 7.6 million people in three days. This was part of a mass vaccination campaign called “Bayanihan, Bakunahan.” The intense Philippines vaccination drive exceeded expectations by about 200,000 vaccines. A second wave of the “Bayanihan Bakunahan” campaign ran later in December.
According to Our World in Data, the Philippines lags behind the global average for the vaccinated population. However, the Philippines vaccination drive shows a stark improvement from the beginning of the year. At that time, vaccines were scarcely available. The government hopes to have 77 million fully vaccinated. Filipinos by the end of the first quarter of 2022. Here are some facts about the Philippine’s mass vaccination program.
The Philippine’s Mass Vaccination Program
- COVID-19 Vaccines: The Philippines has approved eight COVID-19 vaccines for usage. The vaccines include Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Vaccines from other countries include China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm, Russia’s Sputnik V, the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca and India’s Bharat BioTech. The vaccines range in efficacy from 51% to 95%, but the Philippine government encourages vaccination by any brand despite variance in efficacy. The vaccine variety helps ensure there is vaccine availability in the case of delayed shipments or shortages. The Philippine government purchased most of these doses from their respective producers. It also received more than 53 million doses through the COVAX initiative.
- Vaccine Access: There was easy access to vaccination due to 8,000 vaccination centers being open across the Philippines. Even during Typhoon Odette, which hit during the Philippines vaccination drive, the Department of Health vaccinated millions of people. To hit the government target of fully vaccinating 77 million Filipinos by the end of March 2022, local vaccination centers have extended their hours to remain open on weekends.
- Vaccine Hesitancy: Vaccine hesitancy has been decreasing in the Philippines. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Filipinos have been concerned about the safety of the vaccine due to a controversy over the government rollout of a dengue vaccine in 2017. With time, seeing that adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are very rare, people are becoming willing to get vaccinated.
Lagging Vaccination During Philippines Vaccination Drive
Vaccination rates in the Philippines still lag behind the rest of the world. The pandemic pushed millions of Filipinos into poverty. The Philippines Statistics Authority reported 3.9 million more people living in poverty since 2018. Some blame the pandemic lockdowns. These reduced economic demands and therefore jobs. However, as a result of the Philippines vaccination drive, cases have been dropping so the government has been able to ease restrictions. While the Omicron variant may disrupt this progress, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has encouraged vaccination as the best protection against illness and death from COVID-19.
Expanding Vaccination Access
One next step for the Philippines is to expand vaccination across all population groups. Another step is to begin providing booster shots to the fully vaccinated. On December 22, the Philippines approved the Pfizer vaccine to vaccinate children aged 5-11. The government also recently shortened the interval between the second and third doses, which will allow people to receive a booster dose after three months.
The Philippines vaccination drive has increased interest in vaccination. This interest has kept many temporary vaccination sites opened during the drive stay open. With President Duterte’s adamant pleas for Filipinos to get vaccinated, similar vaccination drives will likely take place again and inch the country closer to herd immunity.
– Emma Tkacz