The 7,500 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines that were returned from Bicol due to temperature issues are still usable, the Philippine government said today.
Based on an investigation conducted by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the vaccines were stored in boxes that had a temperature of 400 degrees Celsius. However, both organizations said that the high-temperature reading was due to a defective thermometer.
The vaccines were sent back by the Health Department’s Bicol office to Metro Manila on Monday because officials were unsure if they were stored at the right temperature.
Astra Zeneca’s vaccines have to be stored in temperatures between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, or else they will be spoiled.
“[A]ll other equipment and devices used to store and transport the said vaccines were all functional, thereby ensuring that all vaccine doses are usable,” the Department of Health and National Task Force Against COVID-19 said in a joint statement.
Due to the incident, the Health Department and the anti-COVID task force vowed that they would “double down on ensuring and maintaining the functionality of all devices and equipment used in COVID-19 logistics and storage management.”
However, the government didn’t say if the vaccines will be shipped back to Bicol or if they will just be distributed in Manila.
The Philippines was the last in Southeast Asia to start its vaccination drive, and as of today, only donated vials of AstraZeneca and CoronaVac are being used. President Rodrigo Duterte, whose government borrowed billions of dollars in loans for its anti-COVID program, said that he is “pray[ing]” that procured vaccines will arrive within this month.