MANILA (UPDATE)—The Philippines' vaccine czar on Friday said all COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered to the country this March will be "specifically allocated" to healthcare workers.
"Initial deliveries for April will also follow this allocation until we have completely inoculated nearly 2 million individuals under this sector," national COVID-19 task force chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said in a statement.
Galvez explained that due to the limited supply of vaccines and recommendation of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG), along with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte, the allocation of COVID-19 jabs should follow the priority framework issued by the country's inter-agency task force focused on the coronavirus response.
"The framework prioritizes medical frontliners and healthcare workers to be followed by our senior citizens and other sectors. This prioritization primarily ensures that we will be able to protect and preserve our healthcare system as we continue to battle this pandemic," he said.
According to Galvez, the prioritization of healthcare workers was emphasized by the World Health Organization as part of the Philippines' agreement in procuring 44 million doses of COVID-19 shots from the COVAX Facility, an initiative focused to provide equitable access to vaccines and which the agency is a leader of.
"All the doses from COVAX must first be administered to the agreed upon priority groups starting with healthcare workers. Giving the vaccines to other sectors when not all healthcare workers have been vaccinated will jeopardize succeeding deliveries from COVAX," he stressed.
The Philippines on Thursday received 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility, a boost in its immunization drive following the arrival of Chinese vaccine CoronaVac on Sunday.
WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the Philippines should expect another 4.5 million doses of AstraZeneca jabs to arrive in May through the same vaccine-sharing platform.
The Philippines started its vaccination rollout on Monday, inoculating 700 health workers with CoronaVac. More than 9,000 have been inoculated in the country since.