MANILA (UPDATE) - A shipment of 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in the Philippines Monday through the COVAX Facility, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez said Saturday.
The official confirmed this just as the country expected to receive an initial 600,000 doses of China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday, which were donated by Beijing.
The COVAX Facility by the World Health Organization is an initiative that aims to ensure equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines.
In a statement, Palace Spokesman Harry Roque said the vaccines by the British–Swedish drugmaker will arrive by noon on Monday as part of the first batch of the allocated doses under the Facility.
"This forms part of the 44 million doses of COVAX to inoculate 20% of our population. We thank the WHO, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) towards this end," the statement read.
Roque, in a separate video, also expressed his gratitude to United Kingdom's Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce for his "intercession" on the vaccine's arrival to the country.
The combined jabs set to arrive in the next 2 days number more than 1 million, and the government hailed the development as a turning point in the country's drawn-out battle against COVID-19.
"With the arrival of vaccines from Sinovac and AstraZeneca on Sunday and Monday, respectively, the country’s vaccine rollout formally starts," said Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar on Saturday.
Besides AstraZeneca and Sinovac, the Food and Drug Administration had earlier granted Pfizer emergency use authorization.
“Ito po ay isang pagpapatunay na ang lahat ng mga bakuna na ating ituturok sa ating mga kababayan ay ligtas at epektibo,” Galvez said.
"Kaya’t hinihikayat po namin ang ating mga kababayang Pilipino na magparehistro na sa kanilang mga barangay at upang kayo ay makapagpabakuna na,” Galvez said.
WHO Country Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe this week said the Philippines has completed all requirements for the AstraZeneca vaccines under the initiative.
Abeyasinghe also confirmed around 5.2 million to 9.2 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, which the Philippine drug regulator already approved for emergency use, have been earmarked for the country.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Eric Domingo in late January said the vaccine has an efficacy rate of 70% after the first dose, and trials are ongoing to determine the efficacy rate after the 2nd dose.
AstraZeneca previously caused confusion after it announced that a lower dosing regimen, involving use of only half of the first dose, resulted in higher efficacy.
This is why the Philippines will be following the standard regimen of 2 full doses given 4 to 12 weeks apart, Domingo had said.
The country lagged behind its Southeast Asian neighbors in mass COVID-19 vaccinations despite recording the second highest number of infections in the region. The Philippines aims to vaccinate 70 million people, or two-thirds of its population, this year.
— With a report from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News