Gov’t keeps 70M vaccination target by year-end, eyes 'better Christmas' for Filipinos

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 18)— Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on Thursday expressed optimism the government can reach its target of vaccinating up to 70 million people by the end of the year, hoping that a "better Christmas" is in sight for Filipinos this 2021.

Galvez told CNN Philippines' The Source that officials aim to ramp up the country's weekly inoculation numbers. He said the government targets an average of one million vaccinees per week starting April, which will then be increased to two million per week in May.

"And then this June and July, magkakaroon po tayo ng 3 to 5 million per week," Galvez said. "Kasi po ang nakita po namin, kailangan tumaas po ang ating average na 3 to 5 million per week para po makuha po natin ‘yung 70 million."

"Sa computation po namin, kaya po, kaya po (ang target)," he added. "Ang target po namin—we will have a better Christmas this year."

[Translation: And then this June and July, we'll have 3 to 5 million per week. We're seeing we need to increase our average to 3 to 5 million per week for us to achieve the 70 million target. Based on our computation, we can do it. Our target is—we will have a better Christmas this year.]

Concerns have been raised about the pace of the government's vaccination program, with Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson warning the Philippines may only reach herd immunity by 2033 if the current progress rate continues.

The Health Department earlier stressed that vaccine distribution is ongoing among regions. It also expressed hope the numbers would rise by the day.

Galvez echoed the sentiment, saying the country is still in the process of "gaining experience" from the initial rollout.

He also explained healthcare workers nationwide decided to pace the process of administering the vaccines in order to monitor possible adverse effects.

"Importante po 'yung safety ng mga patients natin. So ang ginawa po ay talagang pin-ace lang (Our patients' safety is important. So what we did was to pace it)," Galvez said.

The Philippines launched its vaccination drive earlier this month following the arrival of vaccines from Sinovac and AstraZeneca, with healthcare workers and some government officials getting the first shots. Galvez had announced more Sinovac shipments—both procured and donated—will arrive later this month.