Philippines eyes giving COVID-19 shots to all health workers in March

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS CBN News

Posted at Mar 01 2021 01:18 PM

A health worker administers the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine to Dr. Alfonso Famaran, director of the Dr. Jose Rodriguez Memorial hospital (Tala hospital) on Monday, March 1, 2021. Famaran was the first health worker to receive the authorized vaccine at the Caloocan hospital. ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Philippines eyes vaccinating its 1.7 million health workers against COVID-19 this March, an official leading the effort said on Monday. 

The Philippine General Hospital and some medical facilities in the capital region have started vaccinating their workers earlier Monday. 

"Ang pangako po namin, at least ngayong March, pipilitin po naming matapos iyong health workers, lahat ng health workers nationwide," vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said in a press briefing. 

"Ang pagkakasabi po ng ating Pangulo... huwag lang i-concentrate sa isang area. Kailangan lahat, walang iiwanan." 

(Our promise is at least this March, we will try to finish the vaccine of all health workers nationwide. The President said do not concentrate on one area, but rather everywhere.)
 
The Philippines on Sunday received its first vaccine supply, courtesy of China's donation of 600,000 shots from Beijing-based drug maker Sinovac Biotech. 

The government will transport some of these doses to Cebu on March 3, and Davao on March 5, said Galvez. 

"Equitable po iyong magiging distribution nito, hindi lang Metro Manila," he said. 

(The distribution will be equitable, not just Metro Manila.) 

The Philippines this month is also expected to get 1 million Sinovac jabs, and 3.5 million COVID-19 shots from UK's AstraZeneca with the help of vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility, said Galvez. 

In total, the country will have 5.1 million doses by the end of March, he said. 

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, Galvez said. 

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. 

— With a report from Reuters