AFTER being delayed for weeks, the Philippines has finally kicked-off its vaccination drive against COVID-19 this week.
The first dose of Sinovac Biotech’s “CoronaVac” vaccine from China was administered to University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital Director Gerardo Legaspi on Monday, March 1, making him the first person in the country to officially receive the COVID-19 jab.
“Hindi ko ma-describe ang (I can’t describe the) feeling. It’s probably release from all the fears… The honor is there,” said Legaspi.
Dr. Edsel Salvaña, director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at UP-National Institutes of Health, was the second person to get the vaccine.
A total of 756 individuals were vaccinated, including Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo, testing czar Vince Dizon, and Metro Manila Development Authority chair Benjamin Abalos Jr.
Following his inoculation, Domingo urged the public to get vaccinated.
“Huwag lang sana natin maging choice yung hindi magpapabakuna. Kasi ‘yung pagpapabakuna para sa COVID-19 para ‘yan sa sarili natin, para sa pamilya natin, tsaka para sa bansa natin (Let’s not choose not to get vaccinated. Because getting vaccinated for COVID-19 is for ourselves, for our family, and our country),” he said in a press briefing before the ceremonial vaccination.
On Sunday, February 28, 600,000 doses of CoronaVac donated by China arrived in the country; 100,000 of the donated doses will go to the country’s military while the remaining 500,000 doses will be for health care workers.
“With this very important shipment, I am confident that more batches of vaccines will be available with great dispatch until every Filipino will be given the chance to be vaccinated at the earliest possible opportunity,” said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who was present at the ceremony.
“I convey my sincere gratitude to the Chinese people and the government of China for this gesture of friendship and solidarity — the hallmark of Philippines-China partnership,” he added.
The Sinovac-made vaccine was the third vaccine brand to secure an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA, following Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
However, the agency advised against using Sinovac on healthcare workers after data from Phase 3 trials in Brazil showed lower efficacy results (50.4%).
In a Palace briefing on Tuesday, March 2, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said health care workers “celebrated” during the ceremonial vaccination.
“Naging napakatagumpay po ng day one ng ating national COVID-19 vaccination program kung saan lahat po ay nagdiwang (Day one of the national COVID-19 vaccination program was very successful. Everyone celebrated),” he said.
The Sinovac-made vaccine was the third vaccine brand to secure an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Philippines’ FDA, following Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
Meanwhile, Philippine vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. announced that the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccines has been delayed.
“The AstraZeneca was delayed because of global acute shortages and logistical challenges,” he said Monday.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 jabs from Pfizer would arrive by the second quarter of the year.
“What we are seeing is maybe by second quarter for Pfizer from COVAX,” said Galvez.
“But not on the procurement as they are saying initially by third or fourth quarter as they no longer have supplies,” he added.
On January 20, the Philippines received confirmation of the country’s participation in the COVAX distribution of vaccines for an early rollout.
The World Health Organization-led COVAX facility is a global platform that aims to ensure fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries.
The Philippines is aiming to vaccinate 50 to 70 million Filipinos in 2021, with up to 200,000 individuals receiving jabs every day.