MANILA (UPDATE) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said China would give another 400,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Philippines this month, which would raise its total donation to a million shots.
Manila last Sunday received its first vaccine supply, courtesy of Beijing's donation of 600,000 COVID-19 shots from Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech.
"I will be receiving another [batch], March. China would give us another 400 [thousand COVID-19 shots], making their donation to this country 1 million," Duterte said in a speech at the inauguration of a school building in Valenzuela City.
Duterte did not say which brand Beijing would donate.
The President said he preferred to get the COVID-19 vaccine from Chinese state firm Sinopharm.
"Hindi masyado ako ma-ano d'yan sa mga produkto ng puti," he said.
(I am not that confident in the products of Western countries.)
Among the hardest-hit in Asia by the pandemic, the Philippines will receive later Thursday 487,200 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Britain's AstraZeneca, the country's second supply. The vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility helped the country secure these shots.
"For those of you who'd opt to take that vaccine, fine with me. Wala sa akin iyan (that is nothing to me). Others might prefer brands," said Duterte.
"The doctors are very discriminating. They're waiting for Pfizer," he added.
The lack of an indemnity deal delayed the arrival of an initial batch of 117,000 Pfizer vaccine doses from the COVAX Facility, initially expected in mid-February.
The Philippines aims this year to inoculate 70 million of its 108 million people to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus 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 in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout despite having one of the region's worst coronavirus problems.
It was 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.
Duterte on Sunday said China "never asked for anything" in exchange for its vaccine donation.
Beijing has refused to recognize a ruling that junked its sweeping claims to the resource-rich South China Sea, including parts of the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
The coronavirus is believed to have emerged in Wuhan City in central China in late 2019. The Philippine's first COVID-19 case involved a Chinese tourist who came from the said city.
— With a report from Reuters