Vaccine anniversary: Exactly a year ago, the Philippines’ COVID-19 vax program was launched

March 1, 2022 - 12:42 PM
Health workers queue to register for COVID-19 vaccination, expected to arrive this month, at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, Philippines, February 9, 2021. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

On this day a year ago, the COVID-19 vaccination program of the Philippines was launched.

It also happened that today marked the first day of imposition of Alert Level 1, the most lenient of all alert level statuses, in Metro Manila and 38 other areas.

The government lowered the classification due to the downward trend of daily COVID-19 cases in the country.

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The state-funded program kicked off at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital on March 1, 2021.

Gerardo “Gap” Legaspi, director of the hospital, was the first person who legally received the first shot of Sinovac’s coronavirus vaccine (CoronaVac) in the Philippines.

Other high-ranking officials also received their CoronaVac shots that day. These include the following:

  • Testing czar Vince Dizon
  • Former FDA chief Eric Domingo
  • Former Metro Manila Development Authority chief Benhur Abalos
  • Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez
  • Department of Health’s Technical Advisory Group member Edsel Maurice Salvana

READ: Saab Magalona, other personalities salute UP-PGH director ‘Gap’ for historic Sinovac jab

Months later, the Philippines has approved eight vaccine brands for the immunization drive.

These brands are as follows:

  • Moderna
  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Sputnik V
  • Johnson&Johnson
  • Oxford-AstraZenec
  • Bharat Biotech
  • Sinopharm
  • Sinovac

READ: Philippines is one of the countries with most number of approved COVID-19 vaccines

One user @ohitsmiko pointed out that the effectiveness of the vaccines to those who have been given the shots early on had already declined by now.

“It is exactly already a year since the first COVID19 vaccination happen. Ibig sabihin yung mga nabakunahan from March to June 2021, nag wane na yung effectiveness ng bakuna nila. So don’t rely so much that vaccinated na last year dahil di na yun kasing effective,” the user said.

The waning effectivity of the jabs and the emergence of COVID-19 variants prompted the Department of Health to launch recommended booster shots last December 3.

The agency released a matrix for booster dose combinations for each brand.

The number of fully vaccinated individuals in the country has also eventually increased over time despite the sluggish rollout in 2021.

As of February 27, according to Reuters COVID-19 vaccine tracker, the Philippines had already administered 141,959,452 doses of jabs.

This translates to vaccinating 65.7% of the country’s population if each person requires two doses for full protection.

In another tracker called “Our World in Data,” the Philippines has fully vaccinated 56.82% of its population.

‘New normal’ reminders

Because of the lenient protocols under Alert Level 1 or the “new normal,” social media users were worried about the risk of another surge of cases that will eventually lead to longer lockdowns.

They reminded their fellow Filipinos online to continue to wear their face masks properly and observe other preventive health measures against COVID-19.

“We just got back to Alert Level 1 here in the Philippines and I already see pictures of people not wearing their masks in public. Just because it’s Level 1 and you’re vaccinated doesn’t mean you can go out without one,” one user said.

“I have encountered kung gaano kaluwag na. Gentle reminder, huwag po tayo pakampante masyado, COVID-19 is still out there,” another user wrote.

“Alert Level 1 na bukas pero paalala lang na andito parin ang COVID ha. Mag ingat parin po tayong lahat para tuloy tuloy ang magandang trend sa March,” data analyst Edson Guido chimes in.

Under this Alert Level status, all modes of mass transport resume operations at full capacity.

Most indoor and outdoor venues and establishments are also allowed to run at full capacity.

However, individuals 18 years old and above should still bring their vaccination cards to be allowed entry in most business establishments.