MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday urged the public to "set aside fears" over the COVID-19 vaccination drive, which authorities are set to launch this week.
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. Health workers and military personnel are on top of the priority to get these jabs.
"To my fellow Filipinos, please set your fears aside. These vaccines are backed by science and deliberated on by our experts. Filipino experts," Duterte said in a welcome ceremony for the Sinovac jabs.
"I encourage you to get vaccinated at the soonest possible time, and be our partner in preventing the further spread of the disease," he added.
Health workers at the Philippine General Hospital and several other medical facilities will be the first to get the Sinovac shots on Monday, said Carlito Galvez Jr, chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
Duterte, in his speech, thanked medical frontliners "for your valuable and selfless contribution in the fight against COVID-19."
"We recognize the profound sacrifices you continue to make every single day, even at the cost of being away from your loved ones and risking your precious lives just to take care of the sick," said the President.
"As I have mentioned before, I assure you that the government will always be by your side, ready to help in any way we can."
The Philippines has negotiated vaccine supply deals with other manufacturers, seeking to secure up to 148 million doses so it can inoculate 70 million people, or two thirds of its population.
An initial shipment of 525,600 doses of the vaccine developed by Britain's AstraZeneca was expected to arrive on Monday. Supply problems will delay the shots' arrival by a week, said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
— With a report from Reuters