MORE VAX. The Philippines on Thursday (May 20, 2021) received 500,000 more doses of government-procured CoronaVac, bringing the country’s total stockpile of the vaccine so far to 5.5 million. The latest batch arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 7:35 a.m. via a commercial Cebu Pacific flight. (PNA photo by Avito C. Dalan)

MANILA – The Philippines on Thursday received 500,000 more doses of CoronaVac, bringing the country’s total number of the China-made vaccine so far to 5.5 million.

The latest batch of government-procured CoronaVac, developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 7:35 a.m. via a commercial Cebu Pacific flight.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque and Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs, Undersecretary Robert Borje, welcomed the arrival of the new Sinovac jabs.

In an interview with reporters, Duque said the presidential directive is that there should be no more choosing of the brand of Covid-19 vaccines as it potentially delays the vaccinations and the goal of achieving herd immunity.

“Kaya ako po ako ay nakikiusap sa ating mga kababayan 'wag na po tayo mamili dahil lahat po ng bakunang ito ay talagang nasuri. Napaka-malawakang at malakihang pagsusuri ang ginawa para siguraduhin na sila ay ligtas, dekalidad, epektibo (I am appealing to our countrymen, let us not choose vaccines. These vaccines all underwent a study to ensure that these are safe, good quality and effective),” Duque said. “Lahat po yan ay garantisadong maayos (All vaccines are guaranteed good quality).”

He said people intentionally delaying getting vaccinated suffer the risk of contracting Covid-19 the more time they wait.

“Kasi magaantay ka kung ano gusto mo. So mapupunta ka ulit sa pinakahuli. Between the waiting time at tsaka yung mahuhuli ka, pwede ka magka-Covid (if you wait for the vaccine that you prefer, you have to wait for your turn at a later time. Between the waiting time, you could contract Covid-19),” he warned.

The Philippines has so far received over 8.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, including 5.5 million Sinovac jabs, 2,556,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 30,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, and 193,050 doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine.

Vaccination program exceeds 3 million-mark

National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the Philippines has breached the three-million mark in its Covid-19 vaccination program.

Out of a total of 3,299,470 administered vaccine doses, 2,512,942 Filipinos have received their first shot, while 786,528 are fully vaccinated.

On May 15, the Philippines recorded the highest one-day utilization of 120,529 doses.

The government is focusing on the immunization of residents of the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, Pampanga, and Batangas, as well as from Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.

The inoculation of priority groups under categories A4 (government and other front-liners) and A5 (indigent) may begin in June once a steady supply is available.

Vaccines from the COVAX Facility will be used for the A1 (healthcare workers), A2 (elderly), A3 (persons with comorbidities), and A5 groups.

Government-procured vaccines will be for A1 to A4.

Next deliveries

The COVAX Facility will deliver 2.2 million of Pfizer-BioNTech and two million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines between May and June, according to Galvez.

"We are glad that we are seeing a quite stable delivery of vaccines," he said.

The government has allocated PHP82.5 billion for the procurement of vaccines, with PHP58 billion borrowed through the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

"We have already spent about PHP4.5 million for Sinovac jabs and advance payment for the Gamaleya vaccines, and also our advance for Moderna. We also have ongoing financing and we haven't released it yet," Galvez said.

The government targets to vaccinate 50 to 70 million this year to achieve herd immunity.

Cleared for release

Later Thursday, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) said the additional 500,000 Sinovac vaccines have been cleared for release.

The BOC said the shipment consigned to the Department of Health was precleared at the Covid-19 One-Stop-Shop.

BOC-NAIA District Collector Carmelita Talusan assured the public that the port will remain firm in its duty of catering its stakeholders with utmost integrity and professionalism in the One-Stop-Shop and Customer Care Center.

She also vowed the timely release of PPE and medical supplies amidst the threat of the pandemic.

Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero earlier committed to expeditiously process the release of Covid-19 vaccines in full support of the vaccination program of the government.

The release of vaccines was in coordination with the NTF.

Along with NTF, the BOC will continue to observe strict measures to ensure the security of vaccines. (with reports from Ferdinand Patinio/PNA)