MANILA— The Philippines this week will get its second delivery of COVID-19 shots through the vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
The country will receive 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines around 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 4, "as part of the first round of allocated doses from the COVAX facility," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
"AstraZeneca’s expected time of arrival is based on the scheduled handover of vaccines. We will notify everyone, if and when there is a change of schedule," he said in a statement.
The President will welcome the arrival of the vaccines in person, Roque earlier said.
But vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said he "cannot confirm yet" the arrival of the AstraZeneca doses.
"Dalawang beses na kami nakuryente diyan. Mabuti i-confirm 'pag may plane nang lumipad from Belgium," reasoned Galvez, a former military general who is also chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
(We have gotten wrong information about that twice.)
The reason for contradicting information between the two Palace officials remains unclear.
Government's earlier announcement of the supposed arrival of AstraZeneca shots on Monday did not push through over logistics issues.
The lack of an indemnity deal, meanwhile, has delayed the arrival of 117,000 Pfizer COVID-19 shots, which the COVAX Facility was initially expected to send in mid-February.
The Philippines on Sunday received its first vaccine supply, courtesy of China's donation of 600,000 COVID-19 jabs from Beijing-based drug maker Sinovac Biotech.
The World Health Organization's Representative in the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, had confirmed that around 5.5 million to 9.2 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, which the Philippine drug regulator already approved for emergency use, have been earmarked for the country under the COVAX Facility.
Some 17 million doses of the product, which the WHO listed for emergency use, have been procured as well by firms and local governments, according to presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion.
AstraZeneca said it believed its vaccine could protect against severe disease, given that the neutralizing antibody activity was equivalent to that of other COVID-19 vaccines that have demonstrated protection against severe disease.
It noted though early last month that based on early data from a trial, its product appeared to offer only limited protection against mild disease caused by the South African variant of COVID-19.
The Philippines, which has recorded over 580,000 coronavirus infections, aims to vaccinate 70 million people or two-thirds of its population this year.
Health workers are on top pf the vaccine distribution priority, officials said.
— With a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News