According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, in 2019, the tourism industry’s contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 12.7%, equivalent to ₱2.48 trillion—over 10% higher than that of the previous year. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, this was reduced to more than half at only 5.4%. In February this year, Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that 4.8 Filipinos working in the tourism sector were affected by the pandemic.
But now that restrictions are easing in most parts of the country, DOT is reviving the country’s tourism. “One advantage in the Philippines is that we have a wide domestic tourism base,” shared DOT Usec. Benito Bengzon Jr. in a mix of Filipino and English during a Panayam sa Panahon TV interview. “We don’t solely depend on foreign visitors. Filipinos themselves can help boost our economy. So, we call on our fellow Filipinos to support the reopening of travel destinations while following health and safety protocols.”
Wearing a face mask and face shield is a must during traveling. (photo by Lorna Mamaril)
How you can travel during the pandemic
As the Department of Health (DOH) continues to record daily new cases by the thousands, and with the emergence of deadlier and more transmissible variants, is it really safe to travel during this time? Usec. Bengzon assured the public that DOT consulted with DOH before restarting the travel industry. “We also listened to the pleas of those who lost their jobs—and this is one of the reasons why we’re doing this. We made sure that the 2reopened destinations are in areas which have contained COVID-19, or have low case counts. All these tourism enterprises have health and safety protocols—not only in their accommodations, but also among tour operators and in tour buses, restaurants, and convention facilities.”
According to Usec. Bengzon, the government also made traveling more convenient with the following initiatives:
- Uniform travel requirements
Because travelers complained about different travel requirements from local government units (LGUs), the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) streamlined the protocols. Right now, the only requirement is a negative RT-PCR test. But because situations may change any time, www.philippines.travel provides a list of destinations, their quarantine statuses and particular travel requirements. As of writing, Baguio City welcomes fully vaccinated tourists without the COVID-19 test. “Areas under MGCQ (modified general community quarantine) or GCQ (general community quarantine) are allowed to open their destinations, but if their LGUs don’t want to accept tourists, then that is something we respect,” said Usec. Bengzon.
- Subsidized RT-PCR tests for local tourists
The DOH’s advisory on the price range of RT-PCR testing is a maximum price cap of ₱5,000 for private laboratories, and ₱3,800 for public laboratories. Since this is a must before traveling, the DOT released ₱35.17 million this year to fund 50% of the testing cost for domestic travelers who have confirmed round-trip transportation tickets and a booking confirmation with a DOT-accredited accommodation establishment. Done in partnership with the Philippine General Hospital and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Filipino tourists can apply for the subsidy program through this website.
- No age restriction
Filipino of all ages are now allowed to travel. “Before, those below 18 and over 65 years old weren’t allowed to travel,” recalled Usec. Bengzon. “We had to adjust because we all know that when Filipinos travel, they bring the whole family.” Still, all members including infants are required to undergo RT-PCR testing.
- Lessened quarantine period for those entering the Philippines
Recently, the IATF announced that fully vaccinated travelers from “green” countries entering the Philippines now have a lessened quarantine period of 7 days from the previously required 10 days. “Green” countries are “classified by the DOH as low-risk countries or jurisdictions based on disease incidence rate.” Currently, the 57 countries and jurisdictions include:
Antigua and Barbuda
The British Virgin Islands
Cote d’ Ivoire (Ivory Coast)
Isle of Man
Northern Mariana Islands
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Pierre and Miquelon
Turks and Caicos Islands (UK)
IATF now allows children below 18 years old to travel. (Photo by Blueberrie Recto)
Ensuring travel safety
Based on a DOT survey conducted last year, Usec. Bengzon stated that the top destinations Filipinos want to visit when restrictions eased were Boracay and Palawan. But top results also included road trip and staycation destinations. Now that leisure travel is allowed, Usec. Bengzon offered these safety tips:
- Follow minimum public health standards.
“We say this over and over, but this is the most important. We should comply by wearing our face masks and face shields, and by practicing frequent handwashing and physical distancing.” In turn, tourism establishments should also follow strict health and safety protocols. “These protocols were actually crafted by the Department of Tourism,” shared Bengzon. “Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat instructed us to craft safety protocols to ensure everyone’s safety—from tourists and tourism employees to local communities.”
- Conduct transactions online.
To minimize face-to-face contact, accommodations encourage online transactions such as reservation and registration. To reduce the risk of infections, front desks and restaurants are equipped with glass or acrylic partitions. Hotels also limit the number of occupants in a room, depending on its size.
- Allot enough time for planning your trip.
Because traveling during the pandemic requires additional logistics, Usec. Bengzon advised giving yourself enough time to prepare. “If there’s one good thing that came from this pandemic, it’s that we’ve become disciplined in doing our research and making plans. Read up on your destination and its travel requirements. Use technology to your advantage when getting information and making reservations. When moving around the different destinations, cooperate and be patient.”
Helping the travel industry
Technology has also helped travel agency owner, John Paull Belleca, in pivoting his business called Travelleca. “Since the pandemic, we shifted to conducting our business online for the safety of our employees and clients. The good thing about that was we were able to provide 24/7 services, and even grow our market.” Aside from preparing itineraries, Travelleca also assists in securing travel requirements such as swab testing and passport renewals.
But despite the ease in restrictions, Belleca confessed that his business has yet to fully recover. For struggling travel agencies like his, Usec. Bengzon said that the DOT has prepared a 6-billion peso budget to be used by tourism enterprises for their capital loans. “The terms and conditions are very friendly. The loans don’t require collateral or interest. Businesses only need to pay a service fee.” The loan period is up to 4 years, with a grace period of up to 2 years. “For those who lost their jobs related to tourism, we have a program with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), which allotted ₱3 billion for cash assistance.”
Right now, the DOT continues its training of tourism frontliners on the Filipino brand of hospitality, and helping destinations in their branding, marketing, and events using virtual platforms.
Passport assistance services help travel agencies like Travelleca stay afloat during the pandemic. (photo from Travelleca’s Facebook page)
Is it really safe to travel during the pandemic?
Though pandemic travel still has its risks, Usec. Bengzon believes that it is matter of balancing health and safety protocols with the need to restart an industry that provides millions of jobs to Filipinos. “We know that tourism significantly contributes to our economy. If we cooperate, and with patience and understanding, we’re confident that we can revive our country’s travel industry.”
Still, the ball is in the Filipinos’ court. Whether they choose to travel or not depends on their risk appetite—as well as the country’s pandemic recovery. As Belleca put it, “I think herd immunity is also one of the keys in reviving tourism. This will also ease our fellow Filipinos’ fear of COVID-19.”
Panayam sa Panahon TV airs every Tuesday at 5 p.m. on Panahon TV’s Facebook page.
Latest data from the Department of Health (DOH) stated that at least 2.6 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to herdimmunity.ph, this is only 3.76% of the 70-million population the government aims to vaccinate this year to achieve herd immunity. The website says that at the current average rate of 216,451 daily vaccinations, herd immunity will be reached in 1.6 years, or in February 2023. For us to achieve herd immunity by the end of the year, the government needs to ramp up its vaccination 3.3 times its current rate.
Herd immunity or population immunity is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the “indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.” To better understand how we can reach this goal faster, the pilot online episode of Panayam sa Panahon TV featured the experts—health reform advocate Dr. Anthony Leachon and Dr. Noel Bernardo from the Philippine Red Cross.
(photo from Quezon City Hall’s Facebook page)
Why PH is falling behind in the global vaccination drive
When the COVID-19 vaccines still weren’t available, governments resorted to lockdowns to stop the spread of disease. But now, countries like the United Kingdom and the United States have freed up their economies, thanks to systematic and rapid vaccination programs. In a recent segment of Panahon TV called Buhay Pandemya, which featured a Filipino caregiver in Jerusalem in Israel, maskless locals can be seen flocking to the streets and celebrating the return of normalcy. Israel was one of the countries that started their vaccination early, which began last December 2020.
But the scenario in the Philippines is a different story. Though cases in the National Capitol Region (NCR) have been somewhat contained, other areas are experiencing surges. Lockdowns and quarantines are still in place, keeping the economy from fully recovering. If we already know the tried-and-tested formula of mass vaccination as the main key to herd immunity, why then are we still behind in the immunization drive? Our experts chalked it up to three main reasons.
- Lack of vaccine supply
Based on Our World in Data’s latest report, the Philippines ranks 8th among the 10 ASEAN countries in terms of vaccine rollout. During the interview, Dr. Bernardo expressed surprise over his discovery that out of the 3,700 approved vaccination sites in the country, only 1,700 are active. “Based on my experience on the ground with the different LGUs and the bakuna centers of the Philippine Red Cross, a big factor is the lack of vaccines,” he said in Filipino. “Bakuna centers don’t receive enough vaccines. Other LGUs (local government units) can only operate half-days.” Dr. Leachon was quick to agree. “If you don’t have vaccines, it doesn’t matter if you have vaccination sites. People will still have no access to vaccination.”
- Lack of organization
With data gathered from DOH, the National Task Force Against COVID-19, the Inter-Agency Task Force and news outlets, Herdimmunity.ph states that we currently have over 17 million vaccine doses, “enough to fully vaccinate 12.47% of the target population.” If such is the case, why is the vaccination still slow?
Dr. Leachon pointed out that LGUs have varying levels of governance, with some more organized than the others. Because best practices are not adopted by all LGUs, they also have varying levels of success, making it harder for the country to reach herd immunity.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bernardo said that we should attack the issue with a “system approach”. He cited how a simple step such as securing a vaccination schedule has become problematic. “People shouldn’t have to walk in like chance passengers. When we schedule them, we know that number one, they fully consent to the vaccination. Second, they should know their vaccine brand so they can manage their expectations. That way, we avoid overcrowding. Third, our supply should cope with our demand. If people leave the site disappointed because of the hassle or lack of vaccine, then they will recount their bad experience to others. But if their experience is positive, others will be motivated to be vaccinated.”
In January this year, a Pulse Asia Survey resulted in 4 out of 10 Filipinos not wanting to get vaccinated. According to Bernardo, the survey was repeated in March. This time, the figure climbed up to 6 out of 10 Filipinos refusing vaccination. “There must be something about the people’s experience in the bakuna centers that increased hesitancy—which we must address right away. Because even if the government promised a flood of vaccines eventually coming in, will people agree to be vaccinated?”
- Vaccine Hesitancy
According to DOH, 9% or over 100,000 of vaccinees who received their first dose missed out on their second dose. According to Dr. Leachon, apart from disorderly systems that discouraged Filipinos, this may be also attributed to the lack of information, leading to decreased awareness. “Maybe they don’t know where they will go to for their second dose. Different vaccine brands have different durations between the two doses. Vaccinees should be given a checklist that includes all the info they need, including when they should return.”
Leachon also suggested massive info campaigns on the possible adverse effects of the vaccine, and the mode of registration. “Online registration is very difficult for the elderly and the poor. Why should we make it hard for them? We need to have a faster registration process.” Another common complaint among registrants is the slow response of LGUs.
Recently, the issue of vaccine brands became even more heated when hundreds of Indonesian health workers became infected with COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated with Sinovac. Recently, 10 Indonesian doctors died despite their complete inoculation with the Chinese vaccine. Until now, China has not provided large-scale data on Sinovac’s effectiveness against the Delta variant. “Our life is all about choices,” Dr. Leachon said. “We choose our spouse, clothes, food. So, it’s even more important to choose what is injected into our bodies. When we don’t give people choices, we’ll have a hard time convincing them to get vaccinated.”
According to WHO, the Sinovac vaccine, in a phase 3 trial in Brazil “showed that two doses, administered at an interval of 14 days, had an efficacy of 51% against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection.” With vaccine brands such as Pfizer and Moderna having an efficacy of 90% or more, some Filipinos are thinking twice about being inoculated with Sinovac. “About 70% of our vaccine inventory is Sinovac. What we’ve seen in Parañaque and Manila wherein residents flocked to the vaccination sites that gave out Pfizer is a sign that Filipinos are brand-conscious. They know their health is on the line. They value the quality, efficacy and safety of the vaccine,” Leachon said.
“Bakuna bus”—a partnership of the Philippine Red Cross and UBE Express
Ways to improve the vaccination drive
Once the main issue of vaccine supply is addressed, our interviewees suggested the following to ramp up our vaccination drive:
- Prioritize urban areas that drive the national economy.
ABS-CBN Data Analytics Head Edson Guido recently tweeted that though COVID-19 cases in NCR are decreasing, only 7.4% of its population are fully vaccinated. Dr. Leachon suggested that prioritizing the NCR Plus Bubble can help the country achieve herd immunity faster. “We shouldn’t spread the vaccine supply thinly across the country, especially those with no cold-chain facilities. For example, we’re expecting 40 million doses of Pfizer, which will fully vaccinate 20 million people. It’s better to prioritize super metro areas like NCR Plus, which has a population of around 26 million—and 70% of that is 18 million. If herd immunity is achieved in NCR Plus, we can open our economy in time for December 2021.”
- Make vaccines more accessible.
Although mega vaccination sites may work, Dr. Leachon pointed out that these are available only in selected areas. He believes that small but multiple vaccination sites may be more efficient. “Mega vaccination sites are prone to bottlenecks and may be superspreading events. Vaccination sites should be convenient for the elderly and those with comorbidities. These sites should be many and close to residents, who can be vaccinated faster because they don’t have to worry about transportation. Because the crowd is spread out among multiple sites, waiting time is reduced.” Dr. Leachon suggested taking inspiration from successful countries, which mobilized malls, drugstores and other convenient stores which have cold-chain infrastructure in the vaccination drive.
Dr. Bernardo agreed that the solution lies in community-based vaccination sites. “We really have to bring the vaccine closer to our people, so they will be encouraged. If every barangay has a mini-vaccination site which can only accommodate 20 people a day, that can already make a big difference.” He also enjoined the government to give vaccination leaves for employees. “In bakuna centers I’ve visited, I asked those who weren’t able to get their second dose what happened. They told me it’s because they couldn’t file a leave. We have to consider living factors like this.”
To help more Filipinos be vaccinated, Red Cross Philippines has partnered with UBE Express in employing mobile vaccination buses to reach far-flung areas that do not have cold-chain facilities. “We are ready to partner with national agencies, LGUs, NGOs and private sectors to maximize this initiative and utilize all the logistical support that Red Cross could offer. When the vaccines arrive, we will go to places not accessible to health workers and NGOs.”
- Strengthen governance.
One important aspect of good governance, especially in our country, is disaster preparedness. Currently, we are in the middle of the rainy season, which may pose challenges in the vaccination drive. “First, vaccination programs are usually done in open courts, gyms and other large open spaces, which have good ventilation. But when it rains, these outdoor areas will be affected,” Dr. Leachon explained. “Second, you need to separate evacuation centers for typhoon victims, isolation and quarantine facilities, and vaccination sites. Because the moment people from these areas mix, this can be super-spreading event.” Another concern is power outages that may affect cold-chain facilities.
Government responsiveness is also important in gaining public trust and cooperation. “For example, we know that the reason why the cases are not going down is because we lack contact tracing. But the governments don’t respond to this. The same way with surveys done by SWS and DOH, which showed the participants’ preferred vaccine brands and their perceived effects. You have to execute a program based on what the citizens want, or else you will be doing the same thing all over again, but expecting a different result,” said Dr. Leachon.
Marmick Julian, a proud vaccinee in Parañaque, displays his injected arm. (photo by Robi Robles)
Achieving herd immunity
Dr. Bernardo believes that promoting vaccine confidence is an important step toward herd immunity. “The first vaccine brand we received should’ve been the best and most trusted. But a lot of doubts and issues were involved in our first vaccine—which was one of the main reasons of vaccine hesitancy.” To promote vaccine confidence, Dr. Bernardo stressed the need for better communicators. “There was a comms group that suggested that we relate vaccination to family. When you get yourself vaccinated, it’s a sign of love for your family and friends.”
As to achieving herd immunity this year, Dr. Bernardo was skeptical but hopeful. “We need 500,000 vaccinations a day if we want to have a happy Christmas this year.” Meanwhile, Dr. Leachon still emphasized the importance of vaccine efficacy. “We can only achieve herd immunity when the vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca arrive. We need to step up to the plate in the next 3 months and revisit our strategies,” he ended.
During the early months of the pandemic last year, the demand for ginger surged all over the world. But due to the virus, import shipments of goods including ginger were delayed. Because the supply could not meet the demand, ginger prices drastically rose in many countries. According to this article, these include Ethiopia, wherein the “wonder root” was sold almost three times more than its original price.
The focused interest in ginger came when global health authorities were still churning out initial information on COVID-19. At the same time, social media blazed with claims of ginger being a COVID-19 cure. This prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to nullify such claims, stating that “There is no scientific evidence that black pepper, honey and ginger protect from COVID-19 infection. In general, however, some spices are considered to have properties that may be beneficial for health.”
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine goes further by saying that
“Viral infections spread in your body when the virus enters your cells and makes copies of itself and then those copies enter new cells and repeat the process. Ginger will not destroy the virus in your body or stop the copying process.”
This article stated that during a press briefing, Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies Program Michael Ryan acknowledged that herbal teas such as ginger are beneficial. Still, he warned against false statements that may lead to pandemic risks. “Anything that makes one feel better, anything that provides that reassurance and anything that you believe can help your health that’s not dangerous certainly has a positive impact on your health, but it’s a different thing to say that something is effective in treating the disease,” he said.
Powers of Ginger
For centuries, ginger has been an important part of Filipino cuisine and folk medicine. This comes as no surprise because ginger originated in Maritime Southeast Asia, which includes the Philippines. During the spice trade in 1500 BC, ginger even reached Europe and was used by ancient Greeks and Romans.
Ginger is a popular ingredient of our local dishes such as tinola, arroz caldo and pinakbet, and is known to effectively eliminate fishy odors in seafood-based recipes. But when it comes to home remedies for colds and sore throat, one of the most popular is salabat, traditionally made from boiled fresh ginger.
In a Panahon TV interview with Gab Labrador, a nutrition officer at the National Nutrition Council, he explained in a mix of Filipino and English that ginger became popular during the pandemic because “it helps reduce inflammation brought by respiratory diseases.” In fact, a 2008 study by the Common Cold Center at the Cardiff University in Wales concluded that hot drinks like salabat can soothe “runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chills and fatigue” better than beverages in room temperature.
Labrador also shared ginger’s other health benefits:
- Has a good amount of fiber that’s good for digestive health
- Can calm an upset stomach and acts as a laxative
- Alleviates dizziness and nausea
- Is high in antioxidants that reduce cell damage
- Boosts immune system
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Controls blood sugar levels
But is there such a thing as ingesting too much ginger? Labrador said that though the effects of eating excess ginger are rare, they are still possible. “It can lead to an upset stomach and heart burn. There may be some people who are allergic to spices like ginger. The allergy manifests through skin inflammation.” He also added that ginger may interact with some drugs. “These are the anticoagulants or blood thinners. If you’re taking these drugs, you might want to ask your doctor if you can still take ginger tea.” To avoid complications, Labrador recommended limiting the salabat we drink to one cup a day.
Staying Healthy During the Pandemic and Beyond
Though ginger is undoubtedly beneficial to our bodies, staying healthy this pandemic is still all about avoiding exposure to the virus. “That’s basically following health protocols— social distancing, proper hygiene…and it’s better for the population to take the vaccine once it’s offered to them,” said Labrador.
Echoing WHO, Labrador is all for taking salabat if it makes people feel better. But he warned, “It’s not really good to brand natural remedy as a cure of a certain disease. So, it’s still better to get proper medical action from a medical professional during these times.” Moreover, we can strengthen our immune system by having a holistic approach toward health “Number one is to eat a variety of foods including fruits and vegetables every day. Prioritize natural and fresh foods over highly-processed or fast food. We also want to maintain a physically active lifestyle during these times. Just go to the internet and search for body weight exercises that you can do. That can definitely help us in improving our immune system and maintain a healthy weight which…in the long run, will benefit us.”
How to Prepare Salabat
Labrador gives these steps in preparing your own throat-soothing ginger tea:
- Thinly slice ginger into 5-6 pieces.
- Boil them in a cup of water.
- Boiling time depends on how strong you want the ginger flavor to be. 10 minutes will result in a mild ginger taste, while 15-20 minutes will bring out the ginger’s spiciness.
Watch our interview with Gab Labrador here.
A year after the pandemic, the World Health Organization updated its health advisory last April, stating that COVID-19 may be acquired through airborne transmission. This is in addition to the droplet transmission, which was previously the widely recognized mode of spreading the virus.
But what does this new discovery entail? Panahon TV sought the advice of Dr. Rontgene Solante, chairman of the Adult Infectious Diseases and Tropical Medicine Department at the San Lazaro Hospital, and a member of the Vaccine Expert Panel of the Department of Science and Technology.
Droplet vs Airborne Transmission
Dr. Solante mentioned that the COVID-19 virus is expelled through coughing, sneezing, or talking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) adds to this list by stating that “People release respiratory fluids during exhalation (e.g., quiet breathing, speaking, singing, exercise, coughing, sneezing) in the form of droplets across a spectrum of sizes. These droplets carry virus and transmit infection.”
“The droplet is composed of virus particles within the saliva,” explained Dr. Solante in a mix of English and Filipino. “This means it’s much bigger and heavier. When you cough or sneeze, the droplet can travel up to 3 feet. It falls quickly on surfaces.” It’s because of these reasons why COVID-19 prevention involves regular hand washing and regularly disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces.
On the other hand, COVID 19’s airborne transmission involves the aerosolized form of the virus. “Why is it aerosolized? It’s because when you cough, you expel not just droplets but also tinier particles. These particles are lighter so they stay in the air longer. This is what we call airborne.”
While droplets are most infectious within a 3-feet or 1-meter distance between people, the airborne particles, which can remain suspended in the air for up to two to three hours, may infect people within an 8-feet distance.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), medical procedures and treatments that produce aerosols may also transmit COVID-19. These include endotracheal intubation, open suctioning, administration of nebulized treatment, manual ventilation before intubation, turning the patient to the prone position, and disconnecting the patient from the ventilator.
The CDC states that the higher the amount of virus a person is exposed to, the higher the risk of infection. Through the airborne transmission, you are more likely to catch COVID-19 when the following factors are present:
- Enclosed spaces with poor ventilation. This includes air-conditioned spaces that let droplets and aerosol particles build up in the air.
- Increased exhalation of an infected person’s respiratory fluids. This person doesn’t need to cough or sneeze to spread the virus. He or she may simply be shouting, singing or engaged in a form of physical exertion such as an exercise.
- Prolonged exposure to these conditions for more than 15 minutes.
Though bikers are required to wear face masks, they do not have to wear face shields as these pose safety risks according to the Department of Health. (photo by Jire Carreon)
What Airborne Means
“Airborne diseases are easily transmitted when you are not wearing the proper face mask, when ventilation is very poor, and more importantly, when you are in a closed space,” warned Dr. Solante. Tuberculosis is an example of an airborne disease. “The reason why the Philippines has a high case of Tuberculosis is because many of us live in communities with houses built close to each other. When one has this disease, he or she is likely to transmit it to family members. In a way, this is similar to COVID-19, which easily spreads within the household because of the droplet and airborne modes of transmission.”
The fact that COVID-19 is airborne and may be transmitted beyond 6 feet only means that more than ever, we need to be vigilant about health protocols, and stay in well-ventilated areas. Dr. Solante said, “Chances are, if you are in a room without ventilation or with poor ventilation, the virus can stay longer— for about 3 hours. The minute you remove your face mask or face shield, then you can get the virus within 15 minutes of staying in that closed space.”
But what does proper ventilation mean? Dr. Solante said this is achieved when air inside the room is able to flow out, while air outside the room is able to flow in. “Without air ventilation, the aerosolized virus can stay in the air for two to three hours. But if you open the windows, and there’s ventilation, the virus will only be airborne for less than 15 or 30 minutes, as long as there are only a few people inside the room.”
Sign inside a jeepney. This year, face shields were also required inside public transportation. (photo by Paul Michael Caisip)
How to Prevent Airborne Transmission of COVID-19
Dr. Solante offers these prevention tips in various settings:
- Open windows to encourage ventilation.
- If the heat is too much, and you want to turn on the air-conditioning, make sure to have less conversations and interaction among family members inside the room. Wear face masks, and limit the number of room occupants.
In the office
- Maintain a distance of at least six feet from other people.
- Limit the number of people in the room.
- Always wear your face mask and face shield inside the room. Dr. Solante doesn’t recommend doubling your masks as this may make breathing difficult.
- Avoid unnecessary talking. Use chats or other forms of communication that don’t require you to open your mouth.
- Always practice cough etiquette and regular hand washing.
- If ventilation is poor in the office, Dr. Solante urges the management to consult with engineers on how to improve air flow.
In Public Transport
- Always wear a face mask and face shield. Make sure your eyes, nose and mouth are covered.
- Try not to open your mouth. This means avoiding activities such as eating, conversing and talking on cellphones.
- Maintain physical distancing. Passengers should at least be a seat apart.
In a nutshell, Dr. Solante gives these 5 important tips during the pandemic:
- Practice regular hand washing.
- Wear your face mask and face shield.
- Maintain a physical distance of six feet or more.
- Avoid crowded areas.
- Only visit places with good ventilation.
Though the airborne transmission is cause for alarm, following health protocols is still an effective countermeasure. Complying to guidelines set by health experts and being vaccinated are still your best bets in safeguarding your health and that of other people.
*interview by Trisha Garin
In a recent public address, Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez stated that over 3 million Filipinos have been vaccinated since March 1, 2021. But it is still a far cry from the 70 million the government targets to vaccinate by the end of this year to achieve herd immunity.
The Department of Health (DOH) stated its plans to inoculate 100,000 to 200,000 individuals daily once vaccine supplies become stable. But from the 7 million vaccine doses received by the country so far, over 3 million have only been administered nationwide. A tweet from ABS-CBN Data Analytics Head Edson Guido two days ago (May 19, 2021) further brought to light how far the country is from herd immunity. He stated that at the rate we are going, the 70-million target will be achieved in 3 years, and not this year. “We still have a long way to go,” Guido tweeted. “To reach the target of 70 million by end of 2021, the average should be around 600,000 daily. That’s 5.5 times the current pace. We need more vaccines.”
(screenshot from Twitter)
Adding to the challenges of vaccine supply and vaccination processes is the sensitivity of some vaccine brands. To ensure their safety and efficacy, they need to be maintained in very low temperatures in every step of the way— from their arrival in the airport to storage and delivery. With the country’s limited infrastructure especially in remote areas, vaccine quality may suffer, and along with it, the health of many Filipinos.
Fr. Nic in the Providence College laboratory (Courtesy: Providence College)
Developing a Different COVID-19 Vaccine
Such issues are what a new type of COVID-19 vaccine hopes to resolve. Fr. Nicanor “Nic” Austriaco, who is developing this product, has taken his cue from oral vaccines such as the one for polio. “It’s not unusual to have oral vaccines,” he explained. “In the Philippines, we have 110 million people in 7,000 islands, and we have to bring the vaccine to them. Right now, all the (COVID-19) vaccines require very cold refrigerators. I want to develop a vaccine that is shelf-stable. In other words, you can put it on the shelf without the need for refrigeration, and it would still last.”
Biology and theology are Fr. Nic’s fields of expertise, having been trained in molecular biology at the Massachusetts Institute Technology (MIT) in the U.S. more than two decades ago. Currently, he is a professor at both the Providence College in Rhode Island and our very own University of Santo Tomas. He is also a fellow at OCTA Research, an independent and interdisciplinary research group of faculty members that has been providing pandemic data for the country.
The vaccine Fr. Nic and his team are developing is yeast-based, with a shelf life of two years even without refrigeration. “The idea is that we take probiotic yeast, which you can buy in drugstores, and we genetically engineered it. We changed it so that it will produce the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This spike protein is the part of the virus that Pfizer, Moderna , AstraZeneca, Gamaleya all put into your body. So, we are just changing the delivery system.” The yeast, which could be drunk or taken in pill form, would stay in the intestines and produce the spike protein, which would trigger the body’s immune system.
Despite the promising benefits of this oral COVID-19 vaccine, Fr. Nic warned that it may take 6 months to a year before it can be released to the public. “This is why I call this a second- generation vaccine. The expectation is we’re going to be vaccinated nearly every year or nearly every other year. So to save the Philippine government [from spending] billions of pesos to be paid every year to foreign companies, we’re trying to develop a vaccine for the Philippines that is relatively cheap but safe and efficacious.”
Fr. Nic named the oral vaccine development as Project Pag-asa, precisely because he hopes to give hope to Filipinos, especially the poor. “I read a story about a Filipino jeepney driver who lost his job, who lost his house because of the first ECQ, and I realized that we have to protect the poor—the poorest kababayans. The first-generation ones will be great for them but if we do this every year for a long time, we need a vaccine that would be easily accessible to our poor kababayans.”
Like other vaccine developers, Fr. Nic’s team is developing two versions of the oral vaccine—one for the original COVID-19 strain, and one for the other variants. Regarding questions on the oral vaccine dosage, Fr. Nic said that it would depend on the clinical trial. Once the yeast is developed, the first step is to do animal testing. “Once the animal testing is done— if that is successful— then we have to go to clinical trials in the Philippines. So, there are still many steps that we need to do before we can make it available to the public.”
Developing the COVID-19 oral vaccine (Courtesy: Providence College)
Importance of Vaccination
Fr. Nic has already been vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine in the States. He was part of the priority list because he resided in a community of priests, which had elderly members. “The side effects can be rough, especially after the second dose. I was very sick for about one day. I had headache, body ache, fatigue, chills for many hours. But after that day, it was gone.”
Still, Fr. Nic reiterated that the sick feeling after vaccination is a sign that the vaccine is working. “It’s your body fighting the vaccine already. That is why the second dose is worse than the first dose. The older you are, the easier the side effects, If you are young, you can be really, really, really sick because you have a stronger immune system. So, the immune system fights back stronger and you feel sick more— but only for one day. And if you had COVID before, especially if you didn’t know you had COVID, the first dose would be harder than the second dose.”
As for those hesitating to get vaccinated, Fr. Nic said, “I’m one of them who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. I can now walk around the city. I can get on a plane. I can visit other people. It is the quickest way to end the pandemic, right? I am sure you are tired of ECQ. You are tired of lockdown. The only way we can stop this is if all the Filipino adults—70 million adults choose to be vaccinated.”
For Fr. Nic, vaccination is not only a self-protective measure, but also a caring decision.
“Why do we get vaccinated? We get vaccinated to protect ourselves, but more importantly, to protect those around us who are more vulnerable to the disease. When I was being injected by the second dose, I thought ah, my mom is safe now. I was so concerned about my mother’s well-being. She’s a senior citizen, so every time I visit her [in Manila], I was worried that I would secretly bring the virus to her. Now, I know she is safe because I am vaccinated. We are vaccinated not only to protect ourselves but also to protect our parents and our grandparents. Those are really important to understand, especially in the Philippines.”
* interview by Blueberrie Recto
More than a year into the pandemic, being in quarantine and following protocols have become our way of life. Our own homes have turned into a hub for all our main activities—work, school, and even buying goods, thanks to the internet. Limited movement is vital in preventing sickness, but the feelings of uncertainty, boredom, and powerlessness may affect mental health. However, maintaining our health and well-being is a must during these times.
Importance of health and wellness
More than ever, health and wellness must be prioritized as this serves as our shield against illnesses. According to UP (University of the Philippines Diliman) College of Human Kinetics Faculty Member Hercules Callanta, “The ability to fight off whatever viral load … is dependent on the immune system, where the immune system will fend off the attacks of a viral infection. Some people, even if [they] were exposed to someone in the same household who had a viral problem do not get sick or don’t even become positive because their immune system, which is the reflection of their health and wellness, was able to fend it off.”
With gyms and fitness centers still closed in NCR Plus due to the Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ), some have turned to home-based workouts to stay healthy. This is a commendable thing since according to Callanta, exercise and the immune system are linked. “If you are fit and healthy, active and exercising well, researchers have shown that the immune system, due to the chronic effects of exercise, can become a lot stronger and more equipped to fend off infections.”
Maintaining our health and well-being during the pandemic
Callanta stressed that the World Health Organization (WHO) also recognizes the importance of exercise, not only for our physical health, but also for our mental and emotional well-being. He gives these tips:
- Eat right. Callanta advised following the Pinggang Pinoy. In this serving, half of the plate should be fruits and vegetables, while the other half should be composed of carbohydrates and protein. Carbohydrates include whole grains and whole wheat, while protein examples are fish, eggs, poultry and beef. “Proper food intake is a must since it’s a basic essential of our life,” said Callanta, adding that since there is no medication for COVID-19, we must rely on eating healthy foods to boost our immune system.
- Get enough rest and sleep. Though 7 to 8 hours of sleep is recommended, the quality of sleep is also important. Before going to bed, take time to relax the body and mind through gentle stretching and meditation. Make sleeping a habit by going to bed at the same time every night, and waking up roughly at the same time every morning.
- Manage stress. Stress is unavoidable, but can be managed through regular exercise. Other stress management techniques include remaining calm, talking to people, limiting news feeds and establishing routine.
- Engage in exercise and physical activity. “WHO says that 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every single week has to be maintained.” Callanta recommended doing Short Incidental Physical Activities (SIPA)—functional exercises that can be done in small spaces easily available to us. “For every hour of uninterrupted sitting, we must stand up and do movements—not necessarily workouts but movements for 2 to 4 minutes,” said Callanta. This already contributes significantly to our health and wellness.
Those who work and study from home can benefit from SIPA. Callanta stated that this is “a way for us to maintain our health and fitness despite the quarantine and movement restrictions.” Examples of SIPA include:
- Arm and Leg raise
- Hinged stretch
- Combination of twisting, bending and squats
- Step back lunges
- Knee touches
- Push ups
- Pull ups
Each exercise can be done for 2 to 4 minutes, which Callanta demonstrated through this video:
How exercise boosts mental health
According to the Department of Health, there are 3.6 million Filipinos suffering from mental disorders amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The lack of mobility and distraction can cause us to overthink things. The lack of motivation may also push us to forego exercise, which Callanta advised against. “Through chronic exercise, our endocrine system secretes several hormones. Some of them are good hormones which allows us to feel good, serving as de-stressors.” There are also hormones that give us pain tolerance against factors that cause pain and stiffness.
Maintaining our health is an important responsibility with or without the pandemic, but it’s even more vital now because our life is at stake. Taking care of our overall health is our best investment, not only during the pandemic, but throughout the course of our lifetime.
Never before have we been more dependent on the internet than this pandemic. The virtual space has become a hub for our daily activities—learning, shopping, working, and catching up with friends and family. To foster business continuity, companies have been conducting video conferences instead of face-to-face encounters. Panahon TV is no exception, holding its weekly general assembly online since March.
But if you’ve ever participated in a video conference, you notice how starkly different it is from a real meeting. Participants don’t share the same physical space, which means you see them with different backgrounds, lighting, and video quality. Internet speeds also vary, causing glitches and sudden disconnections. At times, this causes delay and the poor relay of information.
According to this article, experts warn that “distortions and delays inherent in video communication can end up making you feel isolated, anxious and disconnected.” In fact, a 2006 study on remote interpreters at the United Nations and European Union Institutions revealed that after translating discussions via video, they experienced signs of alienation and fatigue because they lacked the “visual perception of the meeting room.”
Because of the challenge of encouraging employee participation in the virtual realm, these simple steps were taken by Panahon TV to make their weekly meetings more enjoyable and engaging.
QOOTD (Quarantine Outfit of the Day) Challenge
Because participants are in the comfort of their own home, and screens only show their upper bodies, they often don’t feel the need to dress up as formally as they would in an office setting. But Visual Consultant Jazel Villamarin would always make an effort to dress up for meetings from head to toe. “Since day one, I would be in full get-up— complete with makeup, accessories, nail polish and shoes. Several virtual meetings later, I was able to persuade everyone to make an effort, hence the QOOTD theme was born.”
At the end of each assembly, Villamarin announces the QOOTD theme for next week’s meeting.
“The themed meetings are like a visual journal that reflects the passage of time. We had themes like ‘Use Your Favorite Bag with Pandemic Necessities” and “Interview Outfit” because we’ve been doing a lot of virtual interviews. For Christmas, our supervising producer gifted us with “I Survived 2020” shirts so we incorporated that into a sporty attire because we all want to be fit and healthy this year. We also had fun themes to lighten up the mood like “Crazy Hats”, “Make Your House Dress More Fashionable”, “Animal Prints”, “Wear Something with Sentimental Value” and so on.”
The tough gets going: the studio team wearing “I Survived 2020” shirts
Director Julius Melo shares that the themes make online meetings lively and engaging, encouraging employees to look and feel good. “It promotes creativity, and stimulates us mentally, emotionally, and physically. It gives us the chance to open our wardrobe again and put on our favorite clothes and accessories.” Technical Operator Robi Robles enjoys the challenge of putting together ensembles that fit the themes. “If it weren’t for the QOOTD, our general assembly would be boring. Every week, I look forward to seeing my workmates in their unique outfits.”
Julius, often seen in Nike shirts in the office, elicited gales of shocked laughter when he showed up in an online meeting wearing his wife’s dress during the “Wear Skirt or Formal Pants” theme.
But the requirement doesn’t end with the outfits; during meetings, employees take turns to explain their reasons for choosing their attire. This brings out their humorous and personal side, allowing them to unload during these difficult times.
For Villamarin, the most memorable theme so far is “Wear Something with Sentimental Value” because of the personal memories that came with the clothes. “Some wore clothes which belonged to loved ones who’ve passed away. I fell in love with the team more after this, and I think it brought us closer like a family.”
Bon wearing his father’s shirt
Case in point is Video Editor Bon Galang, who often keeps quiet during meetings. But when it was his turn to share, he talked about the shirt he wore, which was his father’s. “My dad passed away when I was in high school, and out of the clothes he left, I kept this shirt because it was the only one that fit me. Wearing it brings back my memories of him.” The same QOOTD theme prompted Weather Reporter Patrick Obsuna to wear his family reunion shirt. “Since I was a kid, I was raised by my parents to always put family first, but this pandemic, we weren’t able to conduct our yearly reunion. It made me sad but I remembered the quote that went ‘2020 isn’t the year to count the things you didn’t have, but to be thankful for things you already have.’ Although we weren’t able to see each other this holiday season, there’s another Christmas to look forward to, wherein, hopefully, we can all be together again.”
Patrick in his family reunion shirt
For Executive Producer Donna Lina, these stories are precious. “Some themes are fun, while some—I don’t think we really intended this—managed to show the deeper side of our colleagues. I see another side of them that helps me understand them better.” Villamarin believes that there’s more to the weekly challenge than meets the eye. “Dressing up is a form of self-care; you try to look good for yourself. Judging from the level of participation among employees, I think the QOOTD has successfully fostered teamwork. These are tough times, and we have different ways of coping with daily anxieties. Through this, we get to lighten things up, have fun and enjoy each other’s company albeit virtually.”
Robi wearing his red hoodie, a gift from his brother.
COVID-19 barangay updates
The main reason for virtual meetings cannot be escaped. The Panahon TV team tackles this issue head-on by reporting weekly updates of COVID-19 cases in their respective barangays.
Lina, who initiated this practice, believes this is part of being a responsible citizen. “ One way to manage the cases is having an informed and involved citizenry. As our team reports on daily cases on our show and social media platforms, we also make sure that we ourselves are on top of the situation by knowing the cases in our barangay. If these aren’t updated, we nudge our barangays to give us an update.”
Jearom in his favorite QOOTD theme, “Interview Outfit”
Graphic Artist Jearom Martinez says that the reports let him know “if we are safe in our areas”, while Robi shares that the practice has made him be more vigilant. Meanwhile, Patrick comments: “Aside from learning how our barangays are faring, it also gives us a real grasp on how each barangay is tackling the pandemic.” The learnings from this exchange have given rise to new content, such a critique of the government’s communication techniques during the pandemic.
Recently, updates on the employees’ barangays vaccination plans have been included in the agenda.
Weekly Photo Contest
Though the weekly photo contest, which aims to improve the employees’ visual storytelling skills, is now on its third year in Panahon TV, the viewing of entries remains to be one of the most-awaited portions of the online meetings.
“Element of Water” by Marmick Julian
“Continuous improvement is what we’d like to see here,” Lina says. “The photo contest is both an engagement and educational activity. Through this exercise, we’ve upskilled our members coming from computer science and journalism to be more visual.”
Each week, Villamarin choses a theme for the photo exercise. “Photos taken during the pandemic are more personal and intimate because we are all spending a lot more time at home and with our families.” Instead of being the sole contest judge, Villamarin has begun selecting only the top three entries, and letting the previous week’s winner choose the best photo. “This new process came from an employee’s suggestion, so the team can practice critical thinking.”
“Dawn” by Patrick Obsuna
For the employees, the photo exercise is a welcome challenge. “It pushes me to study composing the photo before taking it,” shares Bon. For Jearom, it doesn’t only improve his skills, but also “reduces my anxiety during the pandemic.” Robi is able to apply his learned skills as a communications graduate, while Patrick has observed his improvement in creative visual expression. “I got better in framing and choosing an angle for my subjects. Aside from looking at the photo entries, I also enjoy hearing the funny explanations my co-workers share about their photos. This lessens my emotional burden from the pandemic. I think the fun and hilarious things we do in our meetings are due to the fact that we’re like family—this is why we’re comfortable in expressing our feelings and keeping our mental health in check.”
“Shape of You” by Raffy Vicente
Villamarin agrees. “It’s nice to hear them give feedback on each photo, and in a way, we get to know each other more. It’s a pleasant surprise to hear their interesting points of view.” She ends, “I believe these QOOTD-themed virtual meetings and photo assignments are a way of taking care of each other. They give proof of life that we survived 2020 together, and that we are here for each other.”
Employees in “Sporty Attire” theme
Though the country’s first COVID-19 case was reported over a year ago in January, the last time Valentine’s Day was observed is drastically different from this year’s celebration. In 2020, couples memorialized their love through dinner dates, out-of-town trips and watching movies. But with COVID-19 still at large, movement is restricted with establishments forced to limit their number of guests to maintain physical distancing.
To find out how lovers will celebrate this day of hearts, Panahon TV interviewed three couples.
Charlotte Ramirez and Jan Gianan
Jan, 29, and Charlotte, 30, met in their previous job as call center agents. Both Singles for Christ members, the couple plans to celebrate their 4th year of togetherness with their usual Valentine’s date. “We’ll do the same thing that we did pre-pandemic—hearing mass, eating together, and having a conversation,” says Jan. “Every day is Valentine’s day when you show your love for each other.”
For them, love means supporting each other in their professional paths. While Jan aims to be a full-time teacher, Charlotte is busy as a working student. “There have been many challenges in our relationship but with the grace of God, we’re thankful to be still together,” shares Jan. To secure their future, they began a coffee drip business, which they wish to expand. As soon as Charlotte graduates, the couple plans to get married and start a family.
Because their relationship is anchored in God, Jan believes that love should be constant, able to sustain couples through tough times. “For me, love is unshaken whether there is a pandemic or not,” he says.
Teofilo Singcol and Marcela Singcol
Long and Lasting Love
64-year-old Teofilo shares how he met his wife 60-year-old Marcelo during his grandmother’s wake in 1974. “My sister introduced me to her, and we fell into conversation because the color and fabric of her dress perfectly matched my polo shirt’s. That same year, we became a couple.” Exactly a decade later, Teofilo and Marcela got married. “We are aiming for a forever relationship. With the help of God, we try our best to be together until the end.”
This year, the Bohol-based couple plans to spend Valentine’s Day in a beach resort. By strictly following health protocols, Teofilo hopes to make their 35th year of marriage memorable for both of them.
Though it is easy to give into fear in the face of uncertainties during the pandemic, Teofilo believes in replacing fear with love. “In any relationship, both sides should be understanding. They must learn to give and take, and to simply talk things out during both good and bad situations.”
Jovemar “Bojie” Palorma (left) and Arceli Palorma
Physical distancing may be a requirement these days, but for Arceli, 33, and Bojie, 35, their long-distance relationship has been keeping them apart even before the pandemic. “My husband is working in Saudi Arabia, and he can’t come home because of the pandemic,” reveals Arceli.
She describes their relationship as simple and practical. “When my husband’s here, we’d go to the movies even when there’s no occasion.” After a 13-year-relationship blessed with four children, Arceli shares their goals as a couple. “We plan to grow old together, see our kids graduate, and stay in love.”
Beyond roses and chocolates, Arceli believes that the greatest gift she and her husband can give to each other is trust. “A long-distance relationship is both a physical and emotional challenge. Trust and having an open mind are important in overcoming difficulties in our relationship.”
Wondering how to celebrate this special occasion? Here are tips to help you spread the love and not the virus this Valentine’s Day:
Sing at home. Serenade each other to your heart’s content in the safety of your own home. No videoke machine? No problem! Search the internet for instrumental versions of your theme songs. Better yet, bust out that old guitar and start serenading the old-fashioned way.
Couple spa. Take turns giving each other a soothing massage to melt away pandemic stress. Light some scented candles and put on some music to put you in a romantic mood.
Share a virtual meal. Couples with long-distance relationships can share a meal virtually. Decide on your common menu, and watch each other eat at the same time to enjoy a semblance of a real date. Meaningful conversation makes the experience even more memorable.
Write a poem. If your partner’s preferred love language is through words, why not express your love through a poem? Your loved one will appreciate your time and effort in completing such a challenging yet heartfelt task. Reading your poem aloud can be your way of renewing your couple vows.
Disconnect. Shut out the chaos of the online world so you can focus on your partner. By getting rid of distractions, you can take time to talk about things that matter. Reminding each other of why you fell in love can be a powerful force in sustaining your relationship.
Now that we are in the middle of a pandemic, give your loved one the gift of health by being healthy yourself. Be responsible for your actions and follow safety measures. Stay healthy; stay in love!
Donna Lina with Agay Llanera
With the whole world racing to beat the pandemic, COVID-19 vaccinations are at the top of the global news pile. According to Bloomberg, the United States tops the list of having the most vaccinations so far at the rate of over 2 million doses per day.
Since the start of the Philippines’ vaccination drive last March 1, the latest tally of total vaccinations is now over 114,000. Besides the delayed arrival of vaccines, another hurdle the country’s mass vaccination faces is the Filipinos’ reduced confidence in vaccines. According to a recent survey, 46% of Filipinos are unwilling to get inoculated against COVID-19 even if the vaccine was proven safe and effective.
A Brief History of Vaccines
English Physician Edward Jenner is widely recognized to have made the first vaccination in 1796. After inoculating a child with smallpox virus, the vaccinee developed an immunity to the disease. Mass immunization following the development of the smallpox vaccine led to the disease’s global extermination in 1979.
- pertussis (whooping cough)
- rubella (German measles)
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
For communicable diseases, vaccines act as extra protection for the body and the entire community. To get this kind of protection, a community must achieve herd immunity.
What is Herd Immunity?
Herd immunity or population immunity is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the “indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.” WHO makes it clear that it supports herd immunity against COVID-19 through vaccination.
This is achieved through mass vaccination, enabling majority of the population to be immune to the disease. Scientists are still researching how much of the population needs to be inoculated for herd immunity against COVID-19 to take place. In the Philippines, the government announced its plans to vaccinate 100% of its adult population or about 70 million Filipinos.
COVID-19 Vaccination Plan in PH
Last February, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) finalized the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccination drive.
Source: Philippine News Agency (PNA)
According to the Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 Vaccines, the government has accumulated ₱82.5 billion to cover costs of procuring vaccines, logistics, distribution and monitoring.
With vaccination costs pegged at ₱1,300 per individual according to Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, around 57 million Filipinos will benefit from the nearly ₱75-billion funds allocated by the government for vaccine acquisition. The remaining individuals are to be covered by the local government units (LGUs) and the private sector. Under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, the national government, local government units (LGUs) and about 300 Philippine companies signed an agreement with British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to procure 17 million vaccine doses. In this article, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said that half of the vaccine doses will be given to the national government, while the remaining half are for the companies’ workforce.
Nationwide Vaccination Drive
Sources: DOH, WHO, PNA
Over 480,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in the Philippines from the COVAX facility. (Photo from National Task Force Against COVID-19)
With population projections from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the government developed a three-year vaccination plan from 2021 to 2023. The roadmap assumes that by 2022, those 16 years old and below may be allowed to take the vaccine, and that by 2023, newborns can be inoculated against COVID-19. Those who’d taken the shots in 2021 will be given booster shots in the succeeding years.
Achieving Herd Immunity
Though WHO emphasizes that “the proportion of the population that must be vaccinated against COVID-19 to begin inducing herd immunity is not known,” the Philippine government’s goal of vaccinating 70 million Filipinos this 2021 aims to achieve herd immunity. Because each vaccination requires two doses, 140 million vaccine doses need to be rolled out in a year.
Based on such figures, the government needs to ramp up its vaccination drive to achieve herd immunity, and enable the country to recover both from the health and economic crises.
The country’s battle against the pandemic is still unfolding but one thing remains clear: until the crucial number of 70 million have not been vaccinated, Filipinos need to be on their toes as cases continue to surge.
Time is of the essence, but with majority having no means for vaccination yet, basic health and safety measures are still the strongest defense against this disease which continues to add to the global death toll of over 2 million.