The vaccination of healthcare workers that began this week, thanks to a few thousand doses donated by China to the Philippine government, marks a positive milestone to the path of recovery of Palawan from the pandemic.

Around 5,000 jabs of Sinovac vaccines have been distributed to various hospitals towards the weekend to start the vaccination of medical workers. Additional donations of AstraZeneca by the United States are also expected this coming week and will complement the limited supply.

Immunizing frontline health workers from the pandemic virus is a key solution to the complex problem of the pandemic. It helps ensure that our critical health care capacity will remain capable to addressing outbreaks without compromising our health personnel. The latter had already happened when during a surge of the infection in Puerto Princesa City late last year, most of the personnel of our primary COVID-19 facility, the Ospital ng Palawan, had to be quarantined and pulled out from work duties due to community transmission cases among the hospital staff itself.

While Palawan’s focus right now is on getting the vaccination of frontline health workers done, we are quite far from the strategic objective of reversing the pandemic in the province by way of mass vaccination and somehow attaining herd immunity. As the World Health Organization had outlined, the way to defeat the pandemic is to immunize a large percentage of the population in such as way that the virus runs out of host bodies to infect and naturally dies down.

Attaining herd immunity is the current mantra of developed nations that are way ahead than us in their vaccination efforts. Based on news reports, the delivery of vaccines directly being purchased by the country from manufacturers will take more time than expected, due to increasing global demand and competition. It is to our disadvantage that the Philippines has not been among the most efficient countries to secure their supplies.

It is a welcome relief that Puerto Princesa City, making the most of a bleak situation in terms of vaccine availability, has managed to forge a purchase agreement with one vaccine manufacturer and is expecting delivery hopefully towards the end of the year.

Beyond the vaccination of its frontline health workers, the city government’s AstraZeneca vaccine purchase is supposedly aimed at immunizing at least 70 percent of the city’s population and take a crack at herd immunity. It is both a plan and a work in progress at the least, but credit should be accorded to the city government for committing to a target.

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