Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., head of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, claimed that the government had achieved its goal of fully vaccinating 70 million Filipinos against the coronavirus disease before the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term on June 30. This claim needs context.
Data as of June 1 from the Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows that this target had been achieved with 70,147,235 Filipinos completing their primary vaccine series, but only after several adjustments since vaccination in the country began on March 1, 2021. It is worth noting they met the goal before it was even set.
In a June 19 press release from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, Galvez said:
“Tulad ng aming ipinangako, naabot na natin ang target na 70 million fully vaccinated individuals. Nagpapasalamat ang NTF sa lahat ng ating health workers, volunteers, at mga kababayang nagtulong-tulong para mas marami tayong mabakunahan at maprotektahan laban sa COVID-19.
(As we promised, we have reached our target of 70 million fully vaccinated individuals. The NTF is grateful to all our health workers, volunteers, and the citizens who all helped get more people vaccinated and protected against COVID-19.)
“This is our parting gift to the next administration. We hope that our new leaders will also prioritize our vaccination program and continue to build an immunity wall among our people.”
Source: Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity official website, Duterte admin’s legacy: PH fully vaccinates 70M Filipinos before turnover of administration, June 19, 2022
At the start of this year, Galvez told Duterte the plan was to fully vaccinate 77 million people in the first quarter of 2022 and 90 million before the president stepped down. However, the government missed its first quarter target, with only about 66 million people fully inoculated by the end of March.
The Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) defined fully vaccinated individuals as those who received the two-dose vaccine series (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Sputnik V) or the one-dose vaccine (Janssen, Sputnik Light).
The country began administering booster shots last Nov. 17 among fully vaccinated individuals for added protection against new COVID-19 variants. The DOH also rolled out second booster shots for immunocompromised individuals on April 25, as well as frontline health workers and senior citizens on May 18.
Last June 6, Galvez reduced the target for fully vaccinated persons to 70 million, a goal it had already achieved five days earlier.
The vaccine czar set a similar target a year prior, when he said the government planned to vaccinate between 50 to 70 million of the 110 million Filipinos within that year.
But by the end of September, only about 24 million Filipinos had received the first dose.
Still, Galvez remained optimistic that the 70-million target could be met before 2022, assuring in a televised interview that the goal was attainable.
But with a sudden global shortage in vaccines as India grappled with a surge of COVID cases, Galvez said in a May 3, 2021 COVID briefing they would scale down the target for the year to 50 to 60 million people.
He then announced a new vaccination plan that focused on areas with “economic and social importance,” later dubbed as “NCR Plus 8,” referring to the National Capital Region, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao, and six provinces — Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal. In June 2021, the list increased by an additional 10 cities.
Focusing on these 19 areas was meant to help economic recovery efforts. The government eventually lowered its vaccination target to only around 50 to 60 percent of the population in these key areas, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said on May 26, 2021.
A new figure had to be set in a July 12 Cabinet meeting as Galvez cited a United Nations report pegging the Philippine population at 111 million. This number raised the target of vaccinated individuals to 77 million to achieve herd immunity by year end, as Duterte mentioned in a statement at a Sept. 22 COVID summit.
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Editor’s note: This fact check was produced with the help of two students of the University of the Philippines Diliman as part of their internship at VERA Files.
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Presidential Communications Operations Office official website, TALK TO THE PEOPLE OF PRESIDENT RODRIGO ROA DUTERTE ON CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 (COVID-19) (video), July 12, 2021
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Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace, Reconciliation and Unity official website, PH breaches 54M fully vaccinated Filipinos or 70% of target population amidst Omicron surge, Jan. 14, 2022
PhilStar.com official website, Galvez: ‘Odette’ made gov’t miss yearend vaccination target, Dec. 31, 2021
Inquirer.net official website, Gov’t blames Odette for missing vax target, Jan. 2, 2022
CNN Philippines official website, PH misses COVID-19 vaccination target, to focus on protecting senior citizens, Dec. 31, 2021
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)