(PNA file photo by Joey Razon) 

MANILA – The fourth edition of the national vaccination drive, Bayanihan Bakunahan, has reached 97 percent of its target, a health official said Friday.

In an online media forum, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said a total of 1,814,315 doses of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines have been administered as of March 17.

"We were able to vaccinate indigenous peoples (IPs) and those living in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas. In total, 65 million or 72.28 percent of target population have been fully vaccinated while 70.2 million or 77.96 percent have received their first dose," she said.

A total of 6.6 million senior citizens were also fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and 1.9 million received their booster shots as of March 17.

Moreover, about 1.4 million of the pediatric population were inoculated while 9.7 million of the adolescent population were vaccinated.

The Department of Health encourages senior citizens and individuals with comorbidities to get their booster shots for continued protection against Covid-19.

"Batay po sa pag-aaral ng (Based on the study conducted by the) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, being boosted reduces the risk of hospitalization by 81 percent based on their data during the peak of Omicron variant wave," Vergeire said. "A study from John Hopkins University showed cases are translating into deaths at a much higher in Hong Kong than in New Zealand where the vaccination rate among senior citizens are higher".

The country's data show that 8 out of 10 individuals admitted to hospitals are unvaccinated.

Vaccine immunity wanes over time so the government emphasizes the importance of booster shots, Vergeire said.

To date, about 11 million individuals were already boosted.

Only adults aged 18 years old and above can receive booster shots.

Individuals inoculated with two-dose primary series of Covid-19 vaccine can get their booster shots three months after their second dose while those who received the single dose Janssen vaccine can get the booster shot after two months. (PNA)