MANILA (UPDATED) - The Philippines on Tuesday morning received 2 million more doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine bought by the private sector, as officials celebrate the country's milestone of having more than 200 million doses in total vaccine arrivals.
The 2,005,300 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine candidate arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 via Korean Air flight KE621 around 11 a.m., the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 said.
This is the first of two deliveries to complete the 3,986,800 doses that the private sector bought from the brand.
The other batch of 1,981,500 doses will arrive on Wednesday, the task force said.
The additional delivery raises the country's total to over 204.6 million, majority or at least 136 million of which have already been distributed nationwide, data collated by the ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group showed.
Philippine vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. expressed his gratitude to the private sector, especially Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, for his "invaluable" contribution to the country's inoculation rollout.
"Through your efforts, we have been able to significantly expand our vaccine rollout, especially to our essential workers who are playing a key role in our nation’s economic recovery," Galvez said.
Galvez added that this is proof that the country could achieve more in solving the health crisis if all sectors work together: "What was deemed impossible just a few months ago can be made possible."
Concepcion said the newly-delivered COVID-19 shots would be used as boosters.
The National Task Force Against COVID-19 is also mulling the possibility of mounting National COVID Vaccination Days every month.
“We are considering it. Considering that we saw that mas maraming pumupunta pag alam nilang may vaccination drive,” Galvez said.
(Many people get vaccinated when they know there is a vaccination drive.)
He is also anticipating that the total vaccine deliveries in the country would breach 210 million by the end of the year.
“We have enough storage,” he said.
“Based on the logistics report, we have no vaccines expiring this December," he added.
VACCINATION OF CHILDREN
Days earlier, Philippine authorities approved expanding the rollout to children as young as 5 years old, but inoculating them could only start as early as January next year as officials wait the arrival of the specific Pfizer jabs for the sector.
The dosage that will be given to children is 10 micrograms, lower than those for adults, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.
The government bought 15 million COVID-19 Pfizer shots for the said sector, and it would arrive in tranches.
“It will be on January, February and March,” Galvez said.
Galvez noted that the government is coordinating with UN-led vaccine platform COVAX and UNICEF for additional virus jabs meant for children.
“We are asking COVAX if they can spare some (for our children). Especially UNICEF, if they can work on the possibility that we will get some additional vaccine for the donation for 5 to 11 (years old)" he explained.
The country races against time to fully vaccinate the majority of the population from COVID-19, amid the presence of the more transmissible omicron variant.
COVID VACCINATION FOR ODETTE-HIT AREAS
Galvez said the government aims to resume COVID-19 vaccination by January in areas affected by Typhoon Odette, which wreaked havoc in the country's southern and central portions in mid-December.
The vaccination drive in the areas was postponed twice.
“Ang sinabi namin priority pa rin ang response at rehabilitation efforts,” he said.
(We said we will still prioritize response and rehabilitation efforts.)
“Importante kasi sa vaccination ‘yung electricity. Nakita natin sa Cebu sa ngayon wala pang more or less 50 percent, so we cannot compromise also the stability of the vaccine,” the official added.
(Electricity during vaccinations is important. We know that in Cebu, at least 50 percent of the areas there do not have power.)
“Ang ating guidance (the guidance) is they will pick up where they left off when the time comes they are capable already doing the vaccinations. Ang nakikita natin (we will see to it) by January."
There were 4,120 COVID-19 vaccine doses that were reportedly wasted due to the onslaught of the typhoon, due to destroyed power lines in several regions.
“This is considered as negligible considering that with the damage that we had with more than 100 percent of those badly hit have suffered long drawn shortage of energy, particularly in Cebu, in Palawan, in CARAGA Region, in Leyte and other areas,” Galvez said.
“But we are still waiting for the possible compromised in Tandag, Surigao and other areas in CARAGA."
As of Monday, the country has administered nearly 106.3 million vaccine shots.
More than 47.8 million individuals in the country or 62 percent of the target 77.1 million, are fully vaccinated against the respiratory disease, while almost 57 million are partially immunized.
The country's low-end target for full inoculation is 54 million individuals, which it hopes to achieve by the end of the year. The vaccination program in the Philippines kicked off on March 1.
A health official earlier said authorities would be able to reach its high-end target by the first quarter of 2022.
A total of 2,838,792 COVID-19 cases have so far been confirmed since the coronavirus reached the Philippines last year. Of the total, 9,579 or 0.3 percent remain active infections.