THE PHILIPPINES can vaccinate as many as 70 million citizens against the coronavirus by year-end, according to the country’s vaccine czar.

The country will get about 10 million doses of vaccines under a global initiative for equal access this quarter, including 117,000 doses of Pfizer, Inc.’s vaccine that might arrive this month, Carlito A. Galvez, Jr. told ABS-CBN News TeleRadyo on Sunday.

The government seeks to inoculate 70 to 80 million Filipino adults to achieve herd immunity, he said.

The vaccine doesn’t need to be given to all Filipinos based on herd immunity, when a large portion of the population becomes immune to the disease, making its spread unlikely.

“Under a best case scenario when we have enough supply and our negotiations for supply succeed, we will have vaccinated 50 million to 70 million by December,” Mr. Galvez said in Filipino.

In case of supply shortage, the vaccination target might have to be delayed until the middle of next year, he added.

The country has signed term sheets with five drug makers covering more than 108 million doses of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines, Mr. Galvez said.

The presidential palace last week said the government would try to order 178 million doses of coronavirus vaccines so it can inoculate more than 90 million Filipinos this year.

The government is in talks for more than 100 million doses with various drug makers worth $1.2 billion and about 40 million doses under the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access facility of the World Health Organization (WHO) worth $84 million, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said last week.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,790 cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 537,310. The death toll rose by 70 to 11,179, while recoveries increased by 11,388 to 499,798, it said in a bulletin.

There were 26,333 active cases, 87.9% of which were mild, 5.6% did not show symptoms, 3% were critical, 2.9% were severe and 0.67% were moderate.

DoH said one duplicate had been removed from the tally, while 55 recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Eight laboratories failed to submit their data on Feb. 6.

About 7.6 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Feb. 5, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 106.4 million and killed more than 2.3 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

About 78 million people have recovered, it said.

DoH on Friday said eight more people had tested positive for a more contagious coronavirus strain, bringing the total in the Philippines to 25.

Three of the eight new cases were from Bontoc, Mountain Province in the country’s north. The Health department said case investigation, contact and back tracing were under way.

DoH earlier traced the more than 800 coronavirus deaths in the past two weeks to “data harmonization” with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire said three-quarters of the deaths were from March to October 2020. DoH said 864 coronavirus deaths were reported from Jan. 23 to Feb. 4. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas