By Eden Eve S. Lacea

PHOTO: SunStar/Yahoo! News
Fifty-four million Filipinos or more than 70% of the target population are now fully-vaccinated against COVID-19 despite the surge of Omicron cases and the difficulties caused by Super Typhoon Odette.

According to the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC), a total of 111,383,756 vaccine doses were provided, of which 54,457,863 Filipinos or exactly 70.60% of the aimed populace had received full vaccinations as of January 13.

In a statement by National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr., damages caused by Super Typhoon Odette impeded the government's target to inoculate 54 million people last December 2021, but continued vaccination efforts helped raise the rollout even as Omicron cases continue to rise in the country.

"Typhoon Odette had a huge effect on our vaccinations, which is why we weren't able to achieve the targeted 54 million fully-vaccinated individuals at the end of 2021. This difficulty also added up with the new surge this January, but we did not stop administering vaccines," Secretary Galvez said. "We helped our local government units increase their vaccinations throughout the many areas that were not affected by the surge, which is why we have high outputs for the past few days," he added.

In another statement, Galvez emphasized that the remaining three million unvaccinated senior citizens must be prioritized in administering vaccines due to their high rate of hospitalization and fatality.

He also called on all LGUs to encourage more citizens to vaccinate, as well as prioritizing unvaccinated individuals in vulnerable sectors and providing booster shots for qualified citizens.

"This current Omicron surge will target the unvaccinated. To all LGUs, let us do everything we can to encourage our fellow citizens to vaccinate in order to avoid severe cases, hospitalization, or death. Let us prioritize the unvaccinated individuals who belong to the vulnerable sectors, while also ramping up the administration of booster shots for eligible individuals," he stated. "Our LGUs must really double up their efforts in fighting this surge, especially those who are still not badly affected by the rise of cases," the vaccine czar quoted.

More than 4.4 million Filipinos already received vaccine booster shots as of January 14.

Six regions in the country reached the 70% mark of fully-vaccinated individuals which include Metro Manila (109.07%), Cordillera Administrative Region (78.43%), Ilocos Region (78.17%), Cagayan Valley (74.93), Central Luzon (75.7%), and CALABARZON (71.92%).

The national government is set to fully vaccinate 77 million Filipinos at the end of the first quarter, and aims to reach 90 million individuals before the second quarter ends.