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How Close Are We to Achieving Herd Immunity?

We would have to vaccinate half a million people every day to achieve a "better Christmas" this year.

With the Philippines’s vaccination program running for almost two months now, everyone has been talking about the country getting closer and closer to achieving herd immunity.

For anyone who doesn’t know, herd immunity is when a significant number of people in a population (usually 70%) have become immune to a certain illness or disease either through a previous infection or vaccination. (Read: What Is ‘Herd Immunity’ and How Can It Beat the Pandemic?)

Developed countries like the United States and Canada are well on their way to reaching herd immunity, given that 30-40% of their respective populations have already received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. But what about developing countries like the Philippines? When will we be able to achieve herd immunity?

My Pope Philippines explains when and how we can achieve COVID-19 herd immunity in the country.

Limited Supplies

when-can-the-philippines-achieve-herd-immunity
A Chinese military plane carrying the first batch of Sinovac vaccine from China arrives at the Villamor Air Base in Manila, Philippines on Sunday Feb. 28, 2021. (Photo from PCOO-OGMPA/AP News)

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) is aiming to achieve herd immunity in the country by December this year for a ‘better Christmas.’

This means fully vaccinating at least 70 million individuals by the end of the year. However, this seems almost impossible to do with the pace we’re at right now. (Read: 3 Things to Do After Getting Your COVID-19 Vaccine)

Experts say that if we want 70 million Filipinos to be fully vaccinated in eight months, we would have to administer over 250,000 shots daily. However, this might not be met with our current supply— the country only has around 3.5 million doses of the vaccine which will only be able to vaccinate 1.75 million individuals, given that we need two doses to achieve full immunity.

Taking Too Slow

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People wait to receive COVID-19 vaccine inside a sports arena turned into a vaccination site in San Juan City, the Philippines on April 1, 2021. (Photo from Rouelle Umali/Xinhua)

As of writing, our current vaccination rate is only at around 50,000 individuals daily— only a fifth of the daily goal. (Read: Bataan Diocese Eyes Free COVID-19 Vaccine for Church Workers)

Dr. Tony Leachon, a former adviser of the government’s vaccine panel, says that with the way things are going, we won’t be anywhere near herd immunity by December.

“I’m not optimistic that we’ll be finished in 6 months, given na 1.7 million pa lang ang nababakunahan natin,” he said.

Dr. Leachon added that a team of pharmaceutical medicine experts should be tapped in order to hasten the vaccination program. “Late na in the ball game. Medyo tight ang global supply right now,” he explains.

A Few More Years

With how things are going right now, we’re looking at years more before we can achieve herd immunity in the Philippines. According to research and data obtained by group Hacktibista PH, we would need 8.6 years to fully vaccinate 70 million Filipinos— meaning December 2029 is when we’d be back to “normal.”

To shorten the amount of time we’d have to wait for herd immunity, the government must start vaccinating more individuals. And Filipinos should grab the opportunity when they’re offered a vaccine by hospitals or the government.

How is your local government handling the vaccination program? Share it with us at mypope@imv.com.sg!

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