MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — After a delay, the Philippines on Saturday received its first batch of 15,000 shots of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine from Russia.
The COVID-19 shots, developed by Russia's Gamaleya, landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) around 3:44 p.m. via Qatar Airways Flight QR 932, according to the Office for the Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs.
These were considered a "trial order" from Russia, Malacañang earlier said.
The delivery raises the Philippines' total vaccine stock to 4.040 million, about 1.8 million of which have been administered as of April 27.
"Logistical challenges" including the vaccine's cold storage requirement and the lack of direct flights from Russia had delayed the supposed arrival of the Sputnik V shots last Wednesday.
The Philippines is negotiating for 20 million Sputnik V doses.
The Food and Drug Administration has cleared the vaccine for emergency use.
'HIGHLY SENSITIVE VACCINES'
The Department of Health said the first batch of Sputnik V jabs would be used for simulation or practice prior to public deployment.
In a statement, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. described the vaccines from Russia as "highly sensitive" but despite this, the government is "excited" to include it in the government's vaccine rollout.
The shots will also help the government reassess the country's logistics capacity to handle the vaccines that need -18 degrees storage requirement.
"Through this trial phase for Sputnik V, we will not only be able to improve the logistics component our vaccine program, but also prepare the implementing units in receiving and administering this type of vaccine," he said, expressing his gratitude to Russian officials.
He added that the country is expecting up to 20 million more doses of Sputnik V shots to arrive this month.
"The Sputnik V doses that will be arriving this month will provide a major boost to our national immunization program, as we simultaneously immunize priority groups of healthcare workers, senior citizens and people with comorbidities,"
He earlier said that the country is expecting "accelerated delivery" of COVID-19 vaccines beginning next month even as global production of the jabs is seen to stabilize only in June.
To date, the country has tallied 1.046 million COVID-19 cases, over 72,000 of which are remaining active cases.
The disease has claimed 17,354 lives so far in the Philippines.
Among the hardest hit by the pandemic in Asia, the Philippines aims to inoculate a third of its population or 50 to 70 million by the end of the year to achieve herd immunity.
- Reports from Jamaine Punzalan, Pia Gutierrez, and Jeffrey Hernaez, ABS-CBN News