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The first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines has arrived in the Philippines

By Brooke Villanueva Published Mar 04, 2021 9:43 pm Updated Mar 04, 2021 9:56 pm

The Philippines has received the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from British-Swedish drug manufacturer AstraZeneca.

According to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, the plane carried a total of 487,200 doses. President Rodrigo Duterte, along with other government officials, welcomed its arrival at the Villamor Air Base, where it was towed from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The AZD1222 vaccine “has an efficacy of 63.09% against symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection,” as stated in the World Health Organization (WHO)'s official website. “Longer dose intervals within the 8 to 12 weeks range are associated with greater vaccine efficacy.”

In his speech during the event, Duterte expressed his gratitude for the COVAX Facility, WHO, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, and other individuals who paved the way for the shipment. “As I have said before, these vaccines should be treated as a global public good,” he stressed. “The need for international solidarity and cooperation cannot be made clearer than with this pandemic.” 

Photo from the Philippine News Agency (PNA)

The president also appealed to the public to get vaccinated and “be the government’s partner in preventing further spread of the disease.” 

“These vaccines are safe, and they are the key to reopening our society,” he continued. “We may not be out of the woods yet — but we are making progress and the end is in sight. And with your cooperation, we will overcome this pandemic and ensure the health and safety of everyone.” 

Photo from PNA

In a statement, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III encouraged everyone to “put our trust in science, in vaccines.” He said, “With every dose that we will administer, we are inching towards a safer recovery from this pandemic.” 

As per NTF COVID-19 chairman Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the vaccine doses “will immediately be delivered to storage for repackaging to prepare for immediate distribution to our frontliners.”

With this new development, the total number of coronavirus vaccines in the country is now at 1,087,200. On Feb. 28, around 600,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine arrived in the Philippines, which were donated by China. Just recently, Duterte announced they “would give us another 400(000), making their donation to this country 1 million.” 

First on the priority list of the government's vaccination campaign are frontline health workers in both national and local and private and public facilities. The priority group likewise includes health professionals and non-professionals like students, nursing aides, janitors, and barangay health workers.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confessed they “had a few breaches” in protocol as some officials got vaccinated ahead of medical frontliners. He emphasized, however, that it was done “in good faith.” 

The WHO, in a recently concluded press briefing, highlighted the importance of following the priority list. “As you know, there is a huge demand for vaccines all over, in all affected countries,” said country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe. 

“If we cannot demonstrate that we are following the prioritization, unfortunately, COVAX Facility may have to consider other options where the impact of vaccine rollout will be useful and more practical and will contribute to saving more lives,” he warned.

Article thumbnails from PNA