MANILA — Most Filipinos might have to wait until May to get vaccinated against COVID-19, an official leading the inoculation effort said on Monday.
The Philippines in the second quarter of the year will get 5.2 to 9.5 million COVID-19 shots from the vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility, Beijing-based Sinovac and Britain's AstraZeneca, said Carlito Galvez, Jr., head of the National Task force Against COVID-19.
"Doon na po tayo magkakaroon ng tinatawag natin na general public immunization," he said in a press briefing.
(That is when we'll have our so-called general public immunization.)
"Bale ang ano (target) natin, May," added Galvez, who is also the country's vaccine czar.
(Our target for this is May.)
The country's 1.7 million health workers will be prioritized in the vaccine distribution during the remainder of the first quarter, he said.
Medical frontliners in 6 Metro Manila hospitals on Monday received a fraction of the 600,000 China-donated COVID-19 shots developed by Beijing-based drug maker Sinovac Biotech.
The Philippines in March will get 1 million doses more of the Sinovac vaccine, and 3.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine fro Britain's AstraZeneca, said Galvez.
Doses that will not be used by health workers would go to essential government workers like barangay emergency response teams, and "influencers" like mayors who could boost vaccine confidence, he said.
Despite having among the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Asia, the Philippines was 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.
The government aims to inoculate up to 70 million to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus, which has infected more than 578,000 in the country, as of Monday.
A Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan City, China, where the disease is believed to have first emerged in late 2019, was the Philippines' first COVID-19 case.
— With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters