MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippines on Monday received delivery of another 1 million COVID-19 shots from Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech, its first batch of procured coronavirus vaccine worth P700 million, as infections in the country reached another all-time high.
A Philippine Airlines all-cargo flight from Beijing carrying the new CoronaVac supply arrived in Manila at 4:04 p.m., said the carrier's spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.
The delivery raises the country's total stockpile of COVID-19 vaccines to a little over 2.5 million doses, more than 650,000 of which have already been administered.
The Department of Health said that the 1 million shots is part of the 25 million procured by the government from Sinovac.
President Rodrigo Duterte, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, National Task Force against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr. (NTF Vaccine Czar), and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian received the vaccine doses at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.
The bulk of these doses will go to Metro Manila and its four surrounding provinces that are under the strictest quarantine level, as well as Cebu and Davao, Harry Roque, Duterte's spokesperson, said in an earlier press briefing.
Health workers and people with health risks are on top of the priority to get the Sinovac jabs, he added.
In a DOH statement, Galvez said around 1.5 to 4 million additional doses from Sinovac will arrive within the next two months, alongside the additional 979,200 AstraZeneca vaccine doses from the WHO-led COVAX facility.
“These will allow the country to further expand coverage of our vaccination program,” Galvez said.
The rest of the procured CoronaVac doses from Sinovac will arrive in the succeeding months.
“The arrival of these vaccines is very timely. As we finish vaccinating healthcare frontliners, we will be able to use this new batch of purchased CoronaVac vaccines to extend vaccination to vulnerable Filipinos—or those with pre-existing conditions and comorbidities—who are at most risk of severe COVID-19 and highest chance of dying," Duque was quoted saying in the same statement.
"This is most crucial especially now that NCR+ or the Greater Manila Area is experiencing a surge,” he added.
Following criticisms of the slow vaccine rollout, the government is now doing simultaneous inoculation of health workers, senior citizens and individuals with comorbidities. The government is expected to release a protocol on which comorbidities will be prioritized for vaccination.
The Philippines signed the 25 million doses supply deal with Sinovac in mid-January.
According to the country's Food and Drug Administration, CoronaVac showed an efficacy rate of 65.3% based on trials in Indonesia, and up to 91.2% based on trials done in Turkey, involving adults aged 18 to 59 years.
The government received 1 million China-donated Sinovac shots in two batches on Feb. 28 and March 24, and 525,600 doses of UK's AstraZeneca vaccine also this month through the global sharing platform COVAX Facility.
On Monday, the Philippines recorded its highest ever daily increase of 10,016 coronavirus infections, pushing the country's total to 731,894 nearly 14 months since confirming its first case.
More details to follow.