MANILA — The Philippines on Tuesday received 3 million additional COVID-19 vaccine doses the government bought from China-based Sinovac, as the country continued to battle soaring virus infections driven by the Delta variant.
The vaccines arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2 shortly before 6 p.m. via Philippine Airlines flight PR 359, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 said.
The additional shipment raises the total vaccine deliveries in the country to nearly 51.9 million doses, more than half or 29.5 million of which were sourced from the Chinese manufacturer, government data collated by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed.
The bulk of the additional 3 million doses will go to provinces as the government shifts the focus of vaccine allocation away from Metro Manila, vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. said.
"Ibibigay natin ito sa mga probinsya, lalo na sa Cavite, Laguna at mga tinatamaan na malalaki," said Galvez.
(We will send this to provinces, particularly Cavite, Laguna and others registering high number of COVID-19 cases.)
"Ang Metro Manila, baka ang ibibigay lang natin, konti lang, pang-second dose nila," he said.
(We might only allocate a small portion for Metro Manila, good for second dose administration.)
"Ito yung ipinangako natin na ishi-shift na natin ang focus natin sa mga LGU sa probinsya," he added.
(This is in fulfillment of our promise to shift our focus to provinces.)
Philippine authorities are also expecting the arrival of 15,000 more COVID-19 vaccine jabs from Russia's Gamaleya Institute around 10 p.m.
Galvez said around 25 million virus shots are expected to arrive in the country by the end of September, including 3 million donated doses from the United Nations-backed COVAX Facility, 12 million from Sinovac, 5 million from Pfizer, 2 million from Moderna, and 1 million doses of single-dose Sputnik Light.
"Magkakaroon po tayo ng more or less 42 million (doses) sa dalawang buwan ng September at October," Galvez told President Rodrigo Duterte during his latest taped address to the nation.
(We will have more or less 42 million doses that will arrive in September and October.)
The government has so far administered nearly 33.1 million COVID-19 vaccine jabs, of which 19.3 million were first doses.
Close to 13.8 million individuals, meanwhile, are fully vaccinated against the respiratory disease, data from the government showed. Some 70 million people are targeted for vaccination in the country to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19.
Amid reports of waning efficacy against newer COVID-19 variants, Galvez cites data from the Philippine General Hospital showing that vaccines remain effective in preventing critical cases.
"Sa lahat ng with complete vaccination, walang critically intubated," he said.
(None of those who have complete vaccination are critically intubated.)
"May mga breakthrough (COVID infections) tayo. But really, vaccine works," he added.
(We have recorded breakthrough infections.)
Meanwhile, infectious diseases specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante believes there is a need to revisit giving booster doses at least to vulnerable individuals fully vaccinated with Sinovac's product.
"Data regarding waning protection against variants of concern with Sinovac 6-8 months after the 2nd dose, is evolving. Thus, a booster dose is recommended," he told ABS-CBN News in a text message.
"We can't ignore the data regarding Sinovac waning immunity... This is vital among (healthcare workers) and those who are elderly and immunocompromised," he added.
The Alliance of Health Workers hopes medical frontliners will be prioritized once the World Health Organization and the Department of Health greenlight the administration of booster doses, although, it believes herd immunity should be achieved first.
"Nananawagan tayo sa ating pamahalaan na 'pag mayroon na talagang kautusan sa World Health Organization o sa Department of Health na magkaroon ng booster dose..., sana po unahin, iprayoridad ang ating health workers," AHW President Robert Mendoza said.
On Monday, the Philippines recorded 22,366 new COVID-19 cases — a new all-time high, raising the country's total confirmed infections to 1,976,202.
The country's active cases stood at 148,594, or 7.5 percent of the total recorded cases.
- reports from Job Manahan and Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News