MANILA - The Philippines' vaccine czar on Monday said more developing countries are availing of COVID-19 vaccines made in China due to the lack of supply of Western vaccines.
"Ang Chinese vaccines are gaining momentum in many developing countries," Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., said, noting however that mistrust in China-made vaccines is still high.
According to Galvez, Hungary received 5 million doses of vaccines from Sinopharm, becoming the first European Union country to use China-made vaccines.
Indonesia is also looking to secure Sinopharm vaccines, he added.
"Many countries are also asking for Chinese vaccines dahil hindi na po talaga available ang Western vaccines," Galvez explained.
(Many countries are also asking for Chinese vaccines because there are no Western vaccines available.)
The Philippines has started its vaccination program with jabs from Beijing-based drug maker Sinovac Biotech on Monday, in hopes of an immediate return to normalcy as the country races to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Aside from the first official shipment of CoronaVac that arrived in the country, several government officials and members of the Presidential Security Group have already been vaccinated with smuggled Sinopharm vaccines.
Sinopharm has not yet applied for emergency use authorization in the Philippines, while Sinovac received its emergency use authorization in late February.
This year, the country aims to inoculate 70 million of its 108 million people to achieve herd immunity and reopen an economy that in 2020 saw its worst contraction on record, due largely to tight restrictions on movement in place since mid-March.
Galvez earlier said the government is eyeing to vaccinate 1.7 million health workers this March.
Despite having among the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Asia, the Philippines will be the last Southeast Asian country to receive its initial set of vaccines.
The vaccination program will be crucial for Philippine efforts to revive its economy, which suffered a record 9.5 percent slump last year due to strict and lengthy lockdowns that hit consumer spending and saw big job losses.