Finally! PH begins COVID-19 vaccination after arrival of donated vials from China

President Rodrigo Duterte and other officials welcome the arrival of Sinovac’s CoronaVac from China. Photo: Presidential Communications/FB
President Rodrigo Duterte and other officials welcome the arrival of Sinovac’s CoronaVac from China. Photo: Presidential Communications/FB

Who thought this was never going to happen?

The Philippines today began its COVID-19 vaccination drive, a day after 600,000 vials of donated CoronaVac vaccines arrived from China.

The vaccine was welcomed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who promised that he would visit China later this year to personally show his appreciation to President Xi Jinping for Beijing’s donation.

The first Filipino to receive the Sinovac-manufactured vaccine is Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, the director of the Philippine General Hospital, one of the country’s COVID-referral medical institutions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not recommend the CoronaVac for healthcare workers who are regularly exposed to the virus, due to its relatively low efficacy rate. A few days later, the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group of the Department of Health contradicted the FDA and recommended the vaccine, saying that it was “safe” to use by frontliners.

Read: Sinovac’s COVID vax allowed for emergency use in PH, but not for healthcare workers

Screenshot from PTV
Screenshot from PTV

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an interview with ANC today that it will take the government almost three weeks to deliver the vaccines to different hospitals, such as the Lung Center of the Philippines and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center.

“We are looking at two weeks for us to be able to roll it out properly and then we will have the next two weeks to monitor if there would still be a quick substitution list that will be used. So basically in two to three weeks, we will be able to utilize these because we already have a plan of rolling it out,” she said.

Meanwhile, the delivery of the 525,600 dosages of donated AstraZeneca vaccines from the COVAX global pool has been delayed due to supply issues. Health Secretary Francisco Duque said that instead of a March 1 arrival, the vaccines will be delivered next week.

The Philippines is the last country in Southeast Asia to start its vaccination drive, but Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque downplayed this by saying that “at least, it has begun.”

As of yesterday, there are 576,352 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, the second-highest in Southeast Asia. This includes 534,271 recoveries and 12,318 deaths.



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