MANILA - Health authorities aim to complete the rollout of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in the Philippines in 2-3 weeks, an official said Monday, as the country begins its first vaccinations to halt the spread of disease.
"We are looking into 2 weeks for us to be able to roll it out properly and then we will have the next 2 weeks to monitor if there would still be quick substitution list that will be used," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told ANC.
"So, basically in 2 to 3 weeks, we will be able to utilize this because we already had a plan of rolling it out, hospitals had been advised already and they are prepared and we start the rollout today," she added.
The Philippines on Sunday received 600,000 doses Chinese-made jabs from Bejing-based Sinovac Biotech.
Vergeire said the inoculation would be conducted Monday in 7 hospitals in Metro Manila. She said the 7 were chosen due to having the "highest burden of the disease."
"For today, we have 7 hospitals... there's an LGU (local government unit) hospital, 3 national government hospitals and 3 military hospitals. We would know from the list they would be providing us later how many were vaccinated," she said.
Those included are Philippine General Hospital, Lung Center of the Philippines, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital, Veterans Memorial Medical Center and V. Luna General Hospital.
She reiterated that vaccination among medical frontliners is voluntary.
"Like we always say, it's purely voluntary. Nobody will force anybody to receive this vaccine. So, if for example, there will be health-care workers that will refuse, they have that right to refuse, and they can also wait for other types of vaccines to come. And they will not be placed in the bottom of the list because there is a special condition for this vaccine," she said.
However, she still encourages health-care workers to get the COVID-19 shots.
"The efficacy of Sinovac, even though it has 50 percent efficacy against mild disease, it offers almost 100 percent efficacy against severe disease and hospitalization, and I think it would be of benefit to our health-care workers," Vergeire added.