Time’s Running Out: Metro Manila to ramp up vaccination due to looming AstraZeneca expiration

Arrival of AstraZeneva vaccines in Pasay City. Photo: World Health Organization Philippines/Twitter
Arrival of AstraZeneva vaccines in Pasay City. Photo: World Health Organization Philippines/Twitter

Metro Manila plans to innoculate 120,000 people each day to prevent millions of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from going to waste, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said today.

At least 2 million doses of donated AstraZeneca vaccines arrived from the COVAX facility over the weekend. At least 1.5 million doses will expire on June 30, while the rest will expire on July 31. Filipinos are fearful that they will just go to waste because the Philippines vaccinates only 40,000 to 60,000 people each day.

However, Duque assured the public that the worst-case scenario will not happen. He said that about 1.5 million doses will be used as a first jab, while the rest will be used as a second. He added that Benjamin Abalos, the chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, had promised to ramp up vaccination in the National Capital Region (NCR), the epicenter of the pandemic.

Read: Metro Manila to get 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vax

“We will make sure nothing will expire…We will activate more vaccination sites,” he said in English and Filipino in an interview with the news program Headstart.

“Chairman Abalos has already committed. We are going to put the lion’s share of the AZ (AstraZeneca) here in the epicenter, the NCR. They said that they can, they have committed to inoculate 120,000 vaccinees per day. So all of these will be used before the expiry date,” he said.

“We are mindful of the expiration. This is gold. We cannot afford to be dilly-dallying in terms of implementing our vaccine rollout plan so we are aggressively pursuing this,” he added.

Read: COVAX-donated Pfizer-BioNTech vax arrive in PH

Duque’s statement comes shortly after Manila Mayor Isko Moreno lamented the Department of Health’s allegedly slow distribution of vaccines. Moreno complained that the vaccines should not be stored for too long inside the Health Department’s warehouses if the national government wants to vaccinate the public and restart the economy.

As of yesterday, the Philippines has 56,752 active COVID-19 cases, with 18,620 deaths.  About 452,000 people have been fully vaccinated against COVID, which represents just 0.4% of the population of the country.

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