PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, March 4 personally welcomed the arrival of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX facility.
The KLM commercial flight carrying 487,200 doses of the British-made vaccine landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at around 7:20 p.m. The shipment was then transported to the Villamor Air Base for the welcoming ceremony.
Duterte expressed his gratitude to the World Health Organization, the COVAX facility, and COVAX donor countries.
“I don’t know how to express my gratitude to the donor countries that you remembered the poor nations [it] is in fact already a plus for humanity. And [on] behalf of the Republic of the Philippines and of the people, and all, I’d like to say again that we felt the gratitude in our hearts and may God bless you for your benevolence,” he said.
According to him, the latest delivery would boost the country’s ongoing vaccination program.
He also urged the public to cooperate and get vaccinated, assuring that the COVID-19 jabs are safe.
“The need for international solidarity and cooperation cannot be made clearer than this pandemic because no one is safe globally until everyone is safe,” said Duterte.
“On this note, I would like to appeal to all our kababayans (fellow countrymen), please get vaccinated against COVID-19 and be the government’s partner in preventing the further spread of the disease. I encourage you to get vaccinated at the soonest possible time.
These vaccines are safe and they are the key to reopening our society,” he added.
Meanwhile, WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe noted that the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccines is a “testament to the strength of collaboration, cooperation, and compassion.”
The initial delivery will be followed by up to 4.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines scheduled to arrive before the end of May in batches.
“Standing together in solidarity has indeed made us stronger. We honor the government of the Philippines for the strong leadership provided under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte throughout the response and the dedicated team of the Department of Health,” said Abeyasinghe.
Top COVAX donors welcome AstraZeneca vax arrival
The United States and the European Union — both of which are major contributors to the WHO-led COVAX facility — welcomed the arrival of AstraZeneca’s vaccines in the Philippines.
In a tweet, the U.S. Embassy in Manila said: “The U.S. welcomes the arrival of 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX facility in the Philippines on Mar. 4.”
“The U.S., through USAID, has donated P97.2 billion ($2B) to COVAX as part of a total $4 billion U.S. donation,” it added.
U.S. Chargé d’Affaires John Law also said that the U.S. will continue supporting the Philippines’ vaccination efforts.
“The United States is proud to be the largest contributor to COVAX, and we welcome the successful arrival of the first tranche of AstraZeneca vaccines in the Philippines. As we fight the pandemic together, the United States will continue to support the Philippines’ vaccination and COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” he said Friday.
Meanwhile, the EU Delegation in Manila said the bloc has so far provided P130 billion (€2.2 billion) to COVAX.
“Team Europe is proud to contribute to the COVAX facility to help provide affordable and fair access to vaccines for Filipinos. Under COVAX, the Philippines will receive vaccines for 22 million Filipinos,” said EU Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Véron.
According to Véron, the EU has “both a responsibility and interest to make vaccines available to all.”
“The European Union has maintained its goal to work in solidarity for vaccine cooperation and multilateralism — none is safe until everyone is safe,” he added.
AstraZeneca jabs for elderly health workers
According to Philippine vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., the AstraZeneca vaccines may be allocated for senior healthcare workers since Sinovac Biotech’s “CoronaVac” vaccine was not recommended for those over 59 years old.
“May mga doctor po na nagsasabi, priority natin yung mga senior healthcare workers. So yung deployment po nito, sa mga hospital pa rin po (Some doctors are saying that we have to prioritize senior healthcare workers. So its deployment will still be in hospitals),” he said Thursday.
“Ang recommendation po nila, considering na may limitations tayo ng 18-59 po na age group ang ating Sinovac (Their recommendation was, considering that we have limitations of [the] 18-59 age group for Sinovac), we want to accept those limitations by having this AstraZeneca available to our senior citizens,” he added.
However, Galvez noted that this move would still be reviewed by members of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG).
“‘Yun po ang tinitignan po namin na anggulo para at least well protected po yung vulnerable, senior healthcare workers (This is the angle we’re looking at to protect our vulnerable, senior health care workers),” he said.
Over 9,000 individuals have been vaccinated since Monday, March 1.
The government aims to vaccinate all health care workers by the end of March or April.
Meanwhile, the vaccine rollout for the general public may begin in late April or May.
“Our projection for the general public as well as the senior citizens, poor families and vulnerable communities, we will start general public inoculations more or less late April or May,” said Galvez.
The Philippines previously set a goal to vaccinate 50 to 70 million Filipinos in 2021, with up to 200,000 individuals receiving jabs every day.