The Palace said Tuesday there are still 28 million to 30 million Filipinos not vaccinated against COVID-19, including 3 million senior citizens, who are most at risk of infection and severe illness.
At a press briefing, acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles urged those who have not yet received their jabs to get inoculated.
He added that having 3 million unvaccinated senior citizens leaves a significant portion of the most vulnerable population without protection against the coronavirus, which could threaten hospital capacity.
“We are appealing to our senior citizens and their loved ones, for yourselves and for your families, please get vaccinated,” Nograles said.
“All vaccines work, regardless of the brand,” Nograles said, adding that they greatly reduce the likelihood of severe illness or death. At the same time, Nograles defended President Duterte’s orders to restrict the unvaccinated from going to public places, saying this was for the common good and to protect people from further infections.
Nograles issued the statement in response to Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte’s remark that she is not in favor of restricting the movement of the unvaccinated.
She and her running mate, former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., said people who remain unvaccinated should not be discriminated against and have the freedom to choose.
“We respect the opinion of Mayor Sara, but the President is trying to protect the unvaccinated because we see the data that when you are unvaccinated, there is a higher chance of you getting infected with severe or critical COVID-19,” Nograles said.
The President ordered barangay captains nationwide to restrict the movement of those unvaccinated amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Duterte earlier said he will arrest unvaccinated individuals outside their homes, but Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano clarified that they will just be escorted back to their homes as a general rule and arresting is the last resort for uncooperative individuals.
Año added that unvaccinated people are generally compliant with the government’s directive to limit their movements to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
“At present, we see that our countrymen are following the regulations,” Año said in Filipino in his virtual report to the President. Because of rising number of infections in the country, several local governments, particularly in Metro Manila, imposed restrictions on unvaccinated individuals.
Citing health experts, Nograles said unvaccinated individuals are at a higher risk of experiencing critical COVID-19 symptoms or death.
The Department of Health (DOH) said more than 80 percent of patients with COVID-19 admitted in hospitals have not been vaccinated against the illness.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, as of Dec. 28 last year, almost 85 percent of patients admitted were not vaccinated. Almost 93 percent of those who died from COVID-19 were only partially vaccinated or were not vaccinated at all.
Vergeire said that though they are still compiling the recent data, the trends “look the same.”
Despite the increase in cases, the Health undersecretary said the national healthcare utilization rate of the Philippines remains at low risk.
Vergeire added that cases recorded in the National Capital Region (NCR) have 60 percent less chance of hospitalization compared to other regions.
She said a “decoupling” phenomenon—where increasing cases do not translate to a large number of severe and critical cases—was being observed in the NCR.
The DOH also observed a decrease in the number of severe and critical cases. Vergeire, however, warned that this should not lead to complacency.