Gov’t urged: Speed up COVID-19 vaccination; program may take over 11 years at current progress rate

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 12)— A senator on Friday urged the government to expedite the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the country, warning that the inoculation program may last for over 11 years if the current progress rate isn’t changed.

Citing personal computations, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said the Philippines may only be able to wrap up the drive by 2033 if the daily vaccination numbers don’t spike.

“Kung hindi mag-accelerate ‘yung pace ng vaccination, at assuming na darating lahat ‘yung supply na ine-expect for 70 million targeted population to achieve herd immunity, then we’ll have a problem because aabutin tayo ng 2033 and at the rate we’re doing,” Lacson told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

“It will take us 11 years and eight months to finish, assuming na darating ‘yung 140 plus million doses,” he explained. “Pero kung maga-accelerate and I hope the government will accelerate the vaccination rollout, then maybe we can advance yung timetable natin.”

[Translation: If we don’t accelerate the pace, and assuming that all supply expected for 70 million targeted population to achieve herd immunity, then we’ll have a problem because it will take us until 2033 at the rate we’re doing it now. It will take us 11 years and eight months to finish assuming that all 140 plus million doses will arrive. But if we accelerate, and I hope the government will accelerate the vaccination rollout, then maybe we can advance our timetable.]

The Health Department, in response, stressed that the country's vaccination drive has just kicked off, and expressed hope that the numbers would rise by the day.

Hindi pa nabibigay sa lahat ng regions at tuloy-tuloy ang distribution (We haven’t given all regions yet, and the distribution is underway)” DOH spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergerie said in a media forum in the same day.

She added authorities have also contacted vaccination sites and concerned regional directors to help quicken the process.

As of Thursday, the agency reported that 76% of the 1.125 million doses received by the Philippines have already been deployed. DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III added around 11,000 healthcare workers are being vaccinated daily.

RELATED: Duque: 76% of available vaccines deployed, but vaccination journey still long

'Spike in cases alarming'

Meanwhile, Lacson also sounded the alarm over the rise in COVID-19 cases in the country in recent days, stressing that all citizens should be conscious in following minimum health protocols.

He likewise backed the decision of Metro Manila mayors to impose a curfew in the region, labeling it a “good move.”

“The government should really use its police power because we’re still under a state of public health emergency,” Lacson said.

The country for the past week has mostly been recording more than 3,000 new COVID cases per day. On Thursday, the DOH reported 3,749 new virus infections— the highest daily case count after September 19.