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Moving targets

The global shortage in COVID-19 vaccines will push the country’s target for achieving herd immunity beyond the first quarter of 2022, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez revealed during the Senate deliberations on the proposed P5.02 trillion national budget for next year.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua added that the Delta variant added to the degree of difficulty in achieving herd immunity as it would require vaccinating more than 70 percent of the population.

Dominguez said as of September 3, 52.8 million doses had been delivered to the country and 142 million doses are expected to arrive before the year ends. He added the government had closed deals for the delivery of 9 million COVID-19 vaccine doses per week but supply constraints might cause it to miss its goal of achieving herd immunity by the first quarter of 2022.

“We have already ordered it; we have set aside money for it. Now it is up to the pharmas to deliver. And so far, this first week of September, we are already short,” he said.

National Task Force chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said delays were expected in the delivery of vaccines from the COVAX facility, citing global “supply slippage” and the vaccine export ban in India as among the main causes. They have suspended the tripartite agreements with local governments due to no supply and because manufacturers want to supply vaccines to the national government for now.

The vaccine supply shortage and the new studies suggesting that the more infectious Delta variant and other emerging variants might require more than the standard of 70 percent of the population to be inoculated to achieve herd immunity, will make the goal more difficult to achieve.

Changing variables and unexpected challenges are no surprise, especially during a global pandemic. The government officials responsible for the country’s vaccination program will need to adapt quickly to get past the obstacles hindering our goals for we face being left further behind by nations that have found the ways and means to meet their goals despite facing the same challenges.*

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