MANILA - Health workers can wait for another brand of vaccine if they don't want to be inoculated with COVID-19 shots manufactured by Sinovac Biotech, President Rodrigo Duterte said Sunday.
Duterte said health frontliners "have a choice" on which vaccine brand they want to be injected with, amid safety and efficacy concerns with Sinovac's product.
"Itong mga health worker, meron mga dadating [na vaccine] … it's either AstraZeneca or the Sinovac. Kung ayaw nila ng Sinovac, maghintay sila. In a few days … basta I was assured it would be coming in the next few days," he said in a press conference hours after the Philippines received its first official supply of vaccines, courtesy of China's donation of 600,000 CoronaVac jabs from Sinovac.
(For the health workers, other vaccines are coming … it's either AstraZeneca or the Sinovac. If they don't want Sinovac, they can wait. In a few days … I was assured other vaccines will be coming in the next few days.)
A Chinese military plane carrying the first batch of Sinovac vaccines landed in Villamor Air Base at around 4 p.m. Sunday.
The President said he won't force health workers and the public to be injected with CoronaVac and other vaccine brands.
"For those who do not want to be vaccinated, okay lang sa akin (that's fine with me). Wala akong problema (I don't have a problem with that)," Duterte said.
Health workers and experts have voiced their concerns on CoronaVac due to its only over 50 percent efficacy rate. The Food and Drug Administration granted its emergency use authorization in late February but earlier noted it was not recommended for inoculating health workers, which is the government's priority sector.
Duterte said vaccines from UK-based AstraZeneca will be arriving soon. But Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier revealed their arrival will be delayed.
At least 520,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses were supposed to be delivered to the Philippines on Monday, but Philippine officials said the World Health Organization informed them it was having problems with the supply.
Duque said it may take another week for the COVID-19 jabs to arrive.
The Philippines has registered 576,352 COVID-19 cases and 12,318 deaths as of Sunday since the disease first emerged in Wuhan, China late November 2019.
Several new and more infectious variants of the novel coronavirus have emerged. One variant, which was first reported in the United Kingdom, has spread to the Philippines.