MANILA — The Philippines hopes to receive its first supply of COVID-19 vaccines this week, courtesy of China's Sinovac Biotech, Malacañang said on Monday, after the country's drug regulator approved the product for emergency use, which was a requirement for its delivery.
Chinese authorities need 3 days from the EUA's approval "to ensure that the vaccines arrive in the Philippines," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
"We're praying it will arrive within the week. But I think the 3 days that they asked from date of issuance falls within the week," he told reporters in an online briefing.
"It looks like Sinovac will be the first vaccine that we will use in our vaccination program," the official added.
Over a week ago, Roque said the arrival of Sinovac's vaccine in the country was etched in stone to happen on Tuesday, Feb. 23. He admitted days later that delivery might be delayed due to the EUA requirement.
The initial batch of 600,000 Beijing-donated doses from Sinovac were initially intended for soldiers and health workers.
But the Food and Drug Administration said Sinovac's shots were not advisable for health workers tending to COVID-19 patients due to its 50.4-percent efficacy. This may prompt authorities to allocate the jabs to economic frontliners instead, Roque said.
Two other vaccines have EUAs in the Philippines, namely US-based Pfizer and the United Kingdom's AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca shots will be shipped out around the end of February, but may encounter delays due to "logistical challenges," said Roque.
There is no certainty yet on the arrival of Pfizer shots, he said.
"But we're only talking of 115,000 doses anyway from Pfizer. Hindi naman po talaga malaking issue 'yan (that's not really a big issue)," he said. Officials have previously said the expected initial supply from Pfizer through the COVAX Facility amounts to 117,000 doses.