MANILA (UPDATE)– The supposed delivery to the Philippines of 15,000 Sputnik V COVID-19 shots from Russia on Wednesday will be postponed, Malacañang confirmed.
Sources earlier told ABS-CBN News that 15,000 shots of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V were not loaded on a Qatar Air commercial flight that was scheduled to arrive in the Philippines by 11 p.m. Wednesday.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said "logistical challenges" including cold storage requirement and the lack of direct flights from Russia resulted in the delay of the arrival of Sputnik V "trial order."
Vaccine "czar" Carlito Galvez "has taken steps to address these challenges and aims to receive the initial order of the Russian [vaccine] in the month of May instead," Roque said in a statement.
Galvez later said the Russian jabs may arrive by May 1 if their delivery goes on without further delay.
He added that carriers Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have volunteered to transport the vaccines with a direct flight from Moscow to Manila.
Airline sources said the vaccines are tentatively scheduled to be loaded on board another Qatar Air flight from Moscow to Doha, Qatar with a continuity flight to Manila that will arrive around 11 p.m. Saturday.
The Department of Health said the first batch of Sputnik V jabs would be used for simulation or practice. The remaining 480,000 Sputnik V doses will arrive by the end of April, it said.
The Philippines has administered at least 1.7 million COVID-19 shots, as of Sunday. It aims to inoculate a third of its population or 50 to 70 million by end of the year to achieve herd immunity.
The country is expecting an "accelerated delivery" of COVID-19 vaccines beginning next month even as global production of the jabs is seen to stabilize only in June, Galvez earlier said.
-- With reports from Raoul Esperas