The very first coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines in the Philippines were officially…
The Philippine News Agency (PNA), a state-run newswire service, reported that the Philippines ranked 2nd in Southeast Asia in terms of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination rollout. Its basis was a comparison of the number of vaccines administered per country in the region.
But according to a former adviser of the COVID-19 national task force, the progress of a country’s vaccination rollout should be based on the percentage of its vaccination target that have been inoculated, and not on the count of jabs administered.
PNA’s article was then shared by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on his social media accounts, causing the claim to gain more traction online.
On May 23, PNA published a story comparing the country’s vaccination efforts to those of its neighboring states. Its headline read:
“PH ranks No. 2 in Covid-19 vax rollout in Southeast Asia”
Source: Philippine News Agency, PH ranks No. 2 in Covid-19 vax rollout in Southeast Asia (Archived), May 23, 2021
The accompanying graphic posted on its official Facebook (FB) page was labeled: “Vaccination rollout in ASEAN,” where the Philippines was ranked second.
Two days later, Marcos’ official FB and Twitter accounts shared PNA’s news report and posted its own graphics that stated: “Philippines ranks #2 in COVID vaccine rollout in Southeast Asia.”
PNA specified in its lead and social media caption that its basis for ranking the Philippines high in terms of vaccination rollout in Southeast Asia was the number of vaccines administered by each country as of May 22, compared to other states.
This is “misleading,” said Tony Leachon, former special adviser to the National Task Force on COVID-19, in a May 25 tweet. He said the vaccination status of the Philippines should be reported “based on the [percentage] of the population vaccinated [in relation] to the overall goal or target for herd immunity, rather than on the administered doses.”
Following Leachon’s recommendation, the Philippines would be ranked 9th out of 10 Southeast Asian countries in terms of vaccination status. Timor-Leste was not included in the ranking due to the lack of data on its vaccination progress.
At the time of PNA’s reporting, 949,939 out of the national government’s target of 50 million to 70 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, which equates to around 1.37% to 1.9% of the country’s vaccination goal.
Data from the official FB page of Kementerian Kesehatan RI (Indonesian Ministry of Health) shows it had administered more than 24.7 million vaccine doses, the most in the region as of May 22. The Philippines took the second spot, with almost 4.1 million vaccines.
To achieve herd immunity, countries set a target number of their population to be fully vaccinated by the end of 2021.
The World Health Organization defines herd immunity as the indirect protection of people against an infectious disease when a population is immune either through vaccination or through previous infection.
Health and government officials initially said the country aims to inoculate 70% of the Filipino population — around 70 million people — to achieve herd immunity. But in May, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said the vaccination target has been lowered to 50 million due to a supply shortage in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases in India.
This was reaffirmed in a May 26 press briefing, in which Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said a vaccination target had been adjusted to 50% to 60% of the Philippine population by the end of 2021 or early 2022.
A memorandum from the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) was leaked on April 27 about a month before PNA published its report needing context. It shows a directive from President Rodrigo Duterte ordering government media platforms to give regular updates about global data on COVID-19, “specifically to convey to the public that the Philippines is faring better than many other countries in addressing the pandemic.”
PCOO News and Information Bureau (NIB) Director Virginia Arcilla-Agtay confirmed the existence of the memo a day later, saying that she sees no problem with “amplifying facts” about the Duterte administration’s handling of the health crisis.
Philippine News Agency, About the Agency, Accessed May 28, 2021
Philippine News Agency, PH ranks No. 2 in Covid-19 vax rollout in Southeast Asia (Archived), May 23, 2021
Bongbong Marcos official Facebook page, Ang Pilipinas ay kabilang sa nangunguna sa pagbabakuna sa Southeast Asia (Archived), May 25, 2021
Bongbong Marcos official Twitter account, Ang Pilipinas ay kabilang sa nangunguna sa pagbabakuna sa Southeast Asia (Archived), May 25, 2021
Indonesian Ministry of Health official Facebook page, Update on the progress of COVID-19 vaccination in Indonesia, as of May 22, 2021, May 22, 2021
National Task Force Against Covid19 official Facebook page, 4M Vaccine Doses Administered, May 23, 2021
Tony Leachon MD Twitter account, This is the way to report the vaccination status…, May 25, 2021
World Health Organization, WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19, October 12, 2020
Esquire Philippines, What Is Herd Immunity and When Will the Philippines Achieve It? March 19, 2021
Philippine Daily Inquirer, ‘Better Christmas’ seen as PH gets herd immunity by November, May 15, 2021
ABS-CBN News, Herd immunity? Duque says PH may achieve it in 2022 if vaccines delayed, April 30, 2021
Llanesca T. Panti Twitter account, This is the leaked PCOO memo…, April 28, 2021
Philippine News Agency, Nothing wrong with ‘amplifying’ facts on PH Covid-19 response, April 28, 2021
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Palace to gov’t media: Stress PH ranking in COVID-19 fight, April 29, 2021
ABS-CBN News official Twitter account, PCOO's News and Information Bureau (NIB) Director Virginia Arcilla-Agtay…, April 28, 2021
Table 1 sources
- Borneo Bulletin, We need to achieve herd immunity, says minister, April 2, 2021 Ministry of Health Brunei Instagram account, Total administration of dose 1 and dose 2 as of 22 May 2021, May 23, 2021
- The Star, Brunei to vaccinate 70% of population in three phases, Jan. 24, 2021
- Xinhua News, Brunei to vaccinate 70 pct of population: health official, Jan. 24, 2021
- Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Cambodia official Facebook Page, Covid-19 Vaccination Progress Report (Integrated with the Ministry of National Defense) in Cambodia, May 22, 2021
- Committee for Handling COVID-19 and National Economic Recovery, COVID-19 Vaccination Data (Update as of 22 May 2021), Accessed June 1, 2021
- Indonesian Ministry of Health official Facebook page, Update on the progress of COVID-19 vaccination in Indonesia, as of May 22, 2021, May 22, 2021
- Centre of Information and Education for Health official Facebook Page, Covid-19 data 22/5/2021 Lao PDR found 19 new infections, May 22, 2021
- World Health Organization, Lao PDR | Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report #30, May 11, 2021
- World Health Organization, Myanmar, Accessed May 27, 2021
- Our World in Data, Myanmar (Burma), Accessed June 1, 2021
- The Myanmar Times, 40% of Myanmar’s population to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in 2021, Jan. 24, 2021
- Al Jazeera, Ethnic groups step in as Myanmar’s COVID response falls apart, May 10, 2021
- Voice of America News, Myanmar's Efforts to Control COVID-19 Crumble Since February Coup, Aid Groups Say, April 12, 2021
- National Task Force Against Covid19, 4M Vaccine Doses Administered, May 23, 2021
- The Manila Times, From 70M to 50M: Jab target lowered, May 6, 2021
- Rappler, Due to India COVID-19 surge, Philippines lowers vaccination target, May 4, 2021
- Philippine Daily Inquirer, COVID-19 vaccination target may need adjustment – Galvez, May 5, 2021
- Ministry of Health Singapore, UPDATES ON COVID-19 (CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019) LOCAL SITUATION (Archived), May 22, 2021
- National University Health System, The COVID-19 vaccine | What you need to know, Accessed June 1, 2021
- Minister of Foreign Affairs Singapore, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan’s Live Zoom Interview on CNBC Asia’s Squawk Box Asia, 10 May 2021, Accessed June 1, 2021
- Ministry of Health (Thailand) official Twitter account, Summary of service #vaccination #covid19 vaccine…, May 22, 2021
- World Health Organization, Hope for Humanity, April 21, 2021
- World Health Organization, Timor Leste, Accessed May 27, 2021
- Government of Timor Leste, Timor-Leste begins national vaccination plan against COVID-19, April 7, 2021
- Our World in Data, Timor: Coronavirus Pandemic Country Profile, Accessed June 2, 2021
- Ministry of Health (Vietnam), Epidemic developments on May 22: Voters need to make medical declarations to prevent COVID-19, May 22, 2021
- Ministry of Health (Vietnam), Submitting to the Government to set up a vaccine fund for COVID-19 prevention, May 20, 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.)