MANILA—Civilian residents and uniformed personnel stationed on Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea received Tuesday their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as the country ramps up its inoculation drive to attain herd immunity against the respiratory disease later this year.
The municipal government of Kalayaan, which has jurisdiction over the island located 285 nautical miles away from mainland Palawan, said 65 individuals were inoculated with CoronaVac, the vaccine candidate of China's Sinovac, on the first day of the COVID-19 vaccination program there.
It was not immediately known under which priority groups for the vaccination the recipients fall. The government started administering vaccines on economic frontliners or those in the A4 group only on Monday, more than three months since catering to health workers (A1), senior citizens (A2), and persons with comorbidities (A3).
"We are expecting more people will be vaccinated on its second day," said the Kalayaan municipal government on its official Facebook page.
Ariel Carlos of the municipal government told ABS-CBN News in an online exchange that the target number of individuals for vaccination is 100. He could not immediately say how many people are currently on the island.
The vaccines were brought via M/L Queen Seagull and administered by personnel of the Department of Health in the region and the province, and of the municipal government from Palawan mainland.
"They traveled Saturday night, and arrived yesterday (Monday), around 10 a.m. . . . Even if it was raining so hard sa isla (in the island), tuloy po ang vaccination kanina (the vaccination proceeded earlier today)," Carlos said.
"Tomorrow (Wednesday), they will continue para sa (for the) remaining vaccines to be administered," he added.
Carlos said Kalayaan Mayor Roberto del Mundo, 68, has not yet been vaccinated.
The island, which serves as Kalayaan's seat of government, has not recorded a single COVID-19 case so far.
Latest government data showed that more than 6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the country since the rollout started March 1.
So far, 1,604,260 individuals are already fully vaccinated, having gotten their 2 doses.
Sinovac, which is one of the four vaccine brands currently being used in the Philippines, has to be administered in two doses, 28 days apart. Beijing donated 1 million doses of the product to Manila.
The government aims to inoculate 58 to 70 million individuals this year to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus that is believed to have first emerged in Wuhan City, China.
Despite being occupied by the Philippines and covered by a decree issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos, Pag-asa Island is being claimed by China.
China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea, within which is the West Philippine Sea, has been declared by a UN-backed arbitration court to have no legal basis.