MANILA (UPDATE) — Vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility has yet to give a new schedule for the arrival in the Philippines of 525,600 COVID-19 doses from Britain's AstraZeneca, an official said on Monday as the country launched its inoculation drive against the coronavirus using jabs from China's Sinovac.
The AstraZeneca product, which was initially set to arrive Monday, could have been the Philippines' second vaccine supply. However, supply problems pushed back the supposed delivery, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Sunday.
"Sa ngayon ay wala pang definite date," vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said in a press briefing. "Nakikita natin ngayon talaga na sa reality sa ground na napakahirap ng logistic... ng global pandemic natin ngayon. We have to understand."
(For now, there is no definite date yet. We see the reality on the ground that logistics is very difficult during the current global pandemic.)
AstraZeneca has been granted emergency use authorization in the Philippines, as well as Pfizer and Sinovac.
The Philippines on Sunday received 600,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, donated by China.
"Beyond pesos and cents, tingin ko po, iyong pagdating ng bakuna kahapon gives all Filipinos hope na matatapos na itong pandemyang ito," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque in a televised briefing.
(I think the arrival of the vaccines yesterday gives all Filipinos hope that this pandemic will end.)
"I would say the arrival of the Chinese vaccines is unquantifiable in pesos and cents," he added.
Healthcare workers in 6 government hospitals in Metro Manila received part of the donation on Monday.
More than 578,000 confirmed coronavirus infections have been recorded in the Philippines, including the more infectious UK variant. The death toll stood at 12,322.
The government aims this year to inoculate 70 million of the country's 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.
The Philippines is playing catchup with its Southeast Asian neighbors despite having one of the region's worst coronavirus problems.
It is the last to start its immunization program and has a challenge not only to ensure supply of vaccines, but to convince its people to take them amid concerns over safety.
Galvez said the Philippines might not move forward unless everyone is immunized.
"It is our moral obligation," said Galvez, who received his injection live on television, adding the vaccines were "doses of hope".
— with report from Reuters