MORE than 70 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the government’s vaccine czar said at the weekend.

The number is about 78% of the target population, vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said in a statement, citing the latest government data. The Philippines started its vaccination program in March last year.

Mr. Galvez said that this is a testament of the administration’s commitment to vaccinate as many Filipinos as possible to protect them from the coronavirus.

“The National Task Force thanks our health workers, volunteers and our fellowmen who worked together to make sure that we vaccinate and protect more people from COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019),” he said in Filipino.

“This is our parting gift to the next administration,” Mr. Galvez said. “We hope that our new leaders will also prioritize our vaccination program and continue to build an immunity wall among our people.”

President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who will finish his six-year term this month, will be replaced by President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.

The government had given out more than 153 million vaccine doses as of June 17, with 75 million people having received at least one dose.

Almost 15 million Filipinos have been injected with their first booster shot, while more than 600,000 have received their second top-up dose.

More than 3 million children aged 5 to 11 and 9.5 million minors aged 12 to 17 have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Mr. Galvez said the country’s high vaccination rate and compliance with health protocols could prevent another coronavirus surge.

“We have had many superspreader events in the past months, including the national elections, but we still managed to keep our new COVID-19 cases low because of our high vaccination rate,” he said. “Vaccination alone is not enough. We still have to follow our public health protocols, including frequent washing of hands and wearing of best-fitted face masks.”

About 3.7 million Filipinos had been infected with the coronavirus as of June 18. Only a little over 4,000 people still have the virus, according to the Health department.

The capital region could post as many as 1,200 daily coronavirus infections by end-June, the Department of Health (DoH) said on Saturday. It also warned about rising hospitalizations in some regions.

On June 16, the OCTA Research Group from the University of the Philippines said the government was unlikely to tighten the lockdown in the Philippine capital and nearby cities this month despite rising coronavirus infections.

Daily infections could only go as high as 500 in the capital region by end-June, while cases nationwide could hit 2,000 — far below the 6,000 threshold that would spur a higher alert level, OCTA fellow Fredegusto P. David told One News Channel.

Metro Manila has been under Alert Level 1 — the most relaxed in a five-tier system — since March after a drop in daily coronavirus infections. An inter-agency task force has recommended to extend this until June 30. — Norman P. Aquino