MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The Philippines began Monday its immunization program against COVID-19, with healthworkers getting the first jabs of China's Sinovac vaccine.
The country, which has the second-highest number of virus cases in Southeast Asia, began its move towards herd immunization as several hospitals that received CoronaVac doses inoculated their staff Monday.
Dr. Gerard Legaspi, medical director of the Philippine General Hospital, was the first recipient of the coronavirus jab.
He was followed by infectious disease specialist Dr. Edsel Salvana and Food and Drug Administration director general Eric Domingo.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr and testing czar Vince Dizon also received CoronaVac.
Other hospitals that received vials of the vaccine were military hospital V. Luna Medical Center, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Tala, Caloocan; the Pasig City General Hospital, the Philippine National Police General Hospital in Camp Crame, and the Lung Center of the Philippines.
The government aims to vaccinate some 50 to 70 million Filipinos by yearend if supplies arrive on time, inoculation czar Secretary Carlito Galvez earlier said.
Among those first in line to receive the COVID-19 shots are military personnel, starting with 30 medical health personnel at the V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City.
The recipients include Dr. Col. Fatima Claire Navarro, the hospital's commanding officer; Lt. Col. Cynthia Liao and Maj. Joel Lorenzo Rollo.
The anti-coronavirus vaccinations will continue on Tuesday at the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio for the Philippine Army; Manila Naval Hospital in Taguig City for the Philippine Navy; Philippine Air Force General Hospital in Villamor Air Base in Pasay City for the Philippine Air Force; and Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo Station Hospital.
"Priority amongst AFP personnel remains to be the medical health frontliners. We will be grateful with whatever number of vaccine shots will be shared to the AFP," AFP spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement.
He added, "[The AFP is] aware that there is a scarce number of vaccines vis-a-vis the number of those who needs to be inoculated among uniformed personnel, we give premium to those of us who perform anti-COVID-19 operations."
Meanwhile, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Benhur Abalos said he also received the Chinese-made jabs and had not experienced any side effects.
"Everything's been fine. I didn't feel any adverse reaction [to the vaccine], no allergies," he told Teleradyo in Filipino.
Abalos said he also chose to be inoculated to show safety and efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine. He said the MMDA had ordered vaccines developed by AstraZeneca for its employees.
The Philippines and Sinovac are discussing the delivery of 1 million doses of CoronaVac this month following the delivery of 600,000 doses Sunday, according to the firm's general manager Helen Yang.
A shipment of 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine was expected to arrive later Monday but Health Secretary Francisco Duque said Sunday it would be delayed by another week.
Some 117,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines through global alliance COVAX Facility were supposed to arrive last month but the shipment was delayed due to the absence of an indemnification agreement, officials said.
Nearly half or 47 percent of Filipinos said late last year they would not get themselves vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a Pulse Asia survey.
In the capital region, only four of 10 residents said they were willing to get coronavirus vaccines, an OCTA Research Group poll found. The interior department placed this figure lower, saying only 3 in 10 Metro Manila residents wanted to get the jabs.
The Philippines as of Sunday tallied 576,352 COVID-19 cases, including 29,763 active infections and 12,318 deaths.