Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., head of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, claims that the government has achieved its goal of fully vaccinating 70 million Filipinos against the coronavirus disease before the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term on June 30. This claim requires context.
Data as of June 1 from the Ministry of Health’s (DOH) COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows that this target has been achieved with 70,147,235 Filipinos completing their main vaccine series, but only after a few adjustments since vaccination in the country began on March 1, 2021. Needs to be note that they met the goal even before it was set.
In a June 19 press release from the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, Galvez said:
“As we promised, we have achieved target no 70 million individuals are fully vaccinated. Be grateful NTF for all of us health workers, volunteersand our compatriots are working together to get more of us vaccinated and protected from COVID-19.
(As we promised, we have reached our target of 70 million fully vaccinated individuals. The NTF is grateful to all of our healthcare workers, volunteers and citizens who are all helping to get more people vaccinated and protected from COVID-19.)
“This is our parting gift for the next administration. We hope that our new leaders will also prioritize our vaccination program and continue to build walls of immunity among our people.”
Source: Official website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, legacy of the Duterte admin: PH vaccinates 70 million Filipinos before change of government, 19 June 2022
Earlier this year, Galvez told Duterte that his plan was to fully vaccinate 77 million people by the first quarter of 2022 and 90 million before the president resigns. However, the government missed its first-quarter target, with only about 66 million people fully injected by the end of March.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) defines fully vaccinated individuals as those who received a two-dose vaccine series (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Sputnik V) or a single-dose vaccine (Janssen , Sputnik Light).
The country began administering booster injections last November 17 among fully vaccinated individuals for added protection against the new COVID-19 variant. DOH also launched a second booster injection for immunocompromised individuals on April 25, as well as frontline health workers and senior citizens on May 18.
Proposals were made to redefine fully vaccinated individuals as those receiving booster injections, but Deputy Health Minister Maria Rosario Vergeire said this was still being discussed.
Last June 6, Galvez reduced the target for people fully vaccinated to 70 million, a goal that had been achieved five days earlier.
The vaccine czar set a similar target a year earlier, when he said the government planned to vaccinate between 50 and 70 million of the Philippines’ 110 million people within that year.
Two weeks after vaccine rollout began on March 1, 2021, Health Minister Francisco Duque III gave a more optimistic view that this target could be achieved by August or September.
But by the end of September, only about 24 million Filipinos had received the first dose.
However, Galvez remains optimistic that the 70 million target can be met before 2022, reassuring in a television interview that his goal is achievable.
But with a sudden global vaccine shortage as India grapples with a surge in COVID cases, Galvez said at his May 3, 2021 COVID briefing that they would lower their target for this year to 50 to 60 million people.
He then announced a new vaccination plan focusing on areas of “economic and social importance,” later dubbed “NCR Plus 8,” in reference to the National Capital Territory, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao, and six provinces—Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal. In June 2021, the list has added an additional 10 cities.
The focus on these 19 areas is intended to assist economic recovery efforts. The government has finally lowered its vaccination target to only around 50 to 60 percent of the population in these key areas, Deputy Health Minister Myrna Cabotaje said on May 26, 2021.
The new figure must be set at a July 12 Cabinet meeting when Galvez cites a UN report that puts the Philippines’ population at 111 million. This number raises the target of individuals being vaccinated to 77 million to achieve herd immunity by the end of the year, Duterte said in a statement at the September 22 COVID summit.
But the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID is causing a spike in COVID cases. Again, Galvez raised the immunization target to 70 to 80 percent of the population by October 4.
In its November 11 resolution, the IATF mentioned a different target of 54 million, which was only achieved the following year.
When 2021 closes, only 49.73 million Filipinos are fully immunized. Galvez attributed this to shipments and operations hampered by Cyclone Odette (Rai), which hit the country on December 16.
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Editor’s note: This fact check was created with the help of two University of the Philippines Diliman students as part of their internship at VERA Files.
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