Philippines launches mass vaccination campaign on Omicron spectrum

  • Quadruple target daily vaccination average of 3 million
  • Duterte urges Filipinos to get vaccinated
  • Logistics and vaccine reluctance were issues

MANILA, Nov. 29 (Reuters) – The Philippines on Monday launched an ambitious campaign to immunize nine million people against COVID-19 in three days, deploying security forces and thousands of volunteers in a program made urgent by threats from the Omicron variant.

Although the original target of 15 million shots has been reduced, nine million would still be a significant number in a country in the archipelago where logistics and reluctance to vaccines are obstacles.

“This is our biggest effort to speed up vaccination,” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said at a vaccination center east of the capital Manila.

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In several of the 8,000 vaccination sites, where 160,000 volunteers worked, police helped hundreds of people in queues, while parents brought children to be vaccinated.

“This is important for avoiding COVID-19 and for us when we teach face-to-face in the future,” said Sean Gerald Valdez, 12, after being vaccinated.

Three million daily vaccinations would be almost four times the national average of 829,000 in November.

Carlito Galvez, the country’s immunization chief, said the new Omicron variant made the campaign even bigger.

“You better be prepared for the effects of Omicron,” he told CNN Philippines.

Omicron, which the World Health Organization has described as a “variant of concern,” has yet to be detected in the Philippines. Its spread triggered global travel restrictions and rocked financial markets.

The Philippines has faced one of Asia’s worst COVID-19 epidemics and its vaccine deployment has been slower than many neighbors, with just over a third of its 110 million people vaccinated .

The average of new daily infections fell sharply to 1,644 in November from 18,579 in September, paving the way for a wider economic reopening.

Vaccination rates are uneven, however, with 93% of eligible residents of the capital region vaccinated against 11% in the poorest regions of the south.

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Reporting by Peter Blaza and Jay Ereno; Written by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales Editing by Ed Davies and Karishma Singh, Martin Petty

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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