Philippines starts three-day, nine million person COVID shot drive


Officials say the emergence of the Omicron variant has underlined the need for vaccination against the coronavirus.

The Philippines has begun an ambitious campaign to vaccinate nine million people against COVID-19 over three days, as it temporarily suspended a decision to allow fully vaccinated tourists into the country after the emergence of the Omicron variant.

The immunization campaign was scaled back from an earlier target of 15 million shots, but would still be a record in a country where vaccine hesitancy remains an obstacle and there are logistical hurdles to reach people in the sprawling archipelago.

Three million vaccinations per day are nearly four times the average of 829,000 daily shots in November.

An official said news of the Omicron variant made the campaign even more vital.

“It is better to be prepared for the effects of Omicron,” Carlito Galvez, the country’s vaccination chief, said on Monday.

The spread of Omicron, which the World Health Organization has described as a “variant of concern”, has sparked global travel restrictions.

Manila announced plans last week to allow fully vaccinated tourists from most countries to enter from December 1, but the government’s COVID-19 taskforce reversed course over the weekend as it announced the suspension of flights from seven European countries, in addition to an earlier ban on arrivals from several African nations.

“The IATF deemed it necessary to suspend the entry of foreign tourists, given worldwide concerns over the Omicron variant,” Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said on Monday, using the acronym for the task force.



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