MANILA (2ND UPDATE) — The Philippines on Saturday received more than 2 million COVID-19 shots developed by Britain's Oxford-AstraZeneca through the vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility.
The vaccines arrived just before 1 p.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 via a Singapore Airlines flight. It is the single biggest delivery of COVID-19 vaccines the Philippines has received so far, and the second of the brand after the first shipment of 525,600 AstraZeneca doses to the Philippines also via COVAX.
The additional 2,030,400 doses raise the Philippines' total vaccine supply to 7.54 million, majority of which are from Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech.
According to officials, the vaccines will be disinfected first before being loaded to trucks that are headed to a storage facility in Marikina City.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and testing czar Secretary Vince Dizon were among the officials present to receive the shipment.
'LIFELINE' FOR FILIPINOS
The United Nations described the arrival of the vaccines as a "lifeline" for Filipinos waiting for the vaccine. In a statement, UN Philippines Resident Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez said the arrival of the doses will "represent a lifeline" for Filipinos who have been waiting for the virus.
This new shipment of vaccines will provide second doses to those who have already been administered the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccines, as well as other target populations.
“These 2 million doses represent a lifeline for so many Filipinos who have been waiting for relief from the suffering and the fear that this virus has brought upon all of us. Looking at these vials, I see hope and relief for Filipinos who need it most,” Gonzales said.
The UN is also working on efforts to augment the Philippines’ COVID-19 response, and regularly meeting with local health officials.
“The UN Philippines meets regularly with DOH officials to reinforce the UN’s support for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response and for the national COVID-19 vaccination programme,” UN said.
Among which are working with the Justice Department to “advocate for the inclusion of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, especially those belonging to priority vaccination groups, in the national vaccination program.”
It is also training healthcare workers on cold chain management, COVID-19 testing, and “and is addressing misconceptions about vaccination through intensive and nationwide information campaigns."
NO REPORTS OF SIDE EFFECTS
Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to receive reports of blood clotting in those who earlier received AstraZeneca jabs, the FDA chief said Monday.
The health department had suspended the use of AstraZeneca's vaccine on those aged 59 and below following very rare reports of blood clots abroad.
But on Friday, the DOH said local governments may resume use of the brand for individuals aged below 60, saying there have been no reports of post-vaccination blood clotting in the Philippines.
Led by the World Health Organization, the COVAX platform aims to ensure vaccine access to poor countries. It pledged to secure coronavirus vaccines for 20 percent of the Philippines' 108 million people.
Jabs from COVAX will include those developed by US-based Pfizer and Johnson&Johnson, British drugs group AstraZeneca, and Covovax from the Serum Institute of India, vaccine "czar" Carlito Galvez earlier said.
Among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in Asia, the Philippines aims to inoculate 70 million people or two-thirds of its population this year.
The Philippines has vaccinated at least 1.7 million people as of May 4.