The country has officially received its first batch of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines with the arrival of 600,000 doses of CoronaVac during a ceremony held Sunday afternoon, Feb. 28, in Pasay City.
A Chinese military plane carrying the crates of Sinovac vaccines landed at the Villamor Air Base around 4 p.m., with President Duterte leading top government officials in inspecting and accepting the vaccine donations from the Chinese government, which was represented by Ambassador Huang Xilian.
From the Villamor Air Base, the Sinovac Biotech Ltd.-manufactured jabs were transported to at least two cold chain storage facilities–one at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila and another at Metropac Logistics in Marikina City–aboard six 40-foot trucks. Police and military personnel escorted the trucks on their way to the cold chain facilities.
Sinovac is among the three vaccine manufacturers granted with an emergency use authorization by the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The other two firms are British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca, and the United States’ Pfizer-BioNTech.
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, said that the delivery of the Sinovac vaccines marked the kickoff of the government’s vaccine rollout.
“As we wrap up our preparations for the vaccine rollout, we call on our countrymen to take part in this massive and historic immunization program. As our President has said, no one is safe until everyone is safe,” he said.
Galvez will lead the main vaccine rollout at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) at around 9 a.m. He will reportedly be vaccinated with Sinovac vaccine.
Accompanying Galvez at the PGH are Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, FDA Director General Eric Domingo, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chair Benhur Abalos, Manila Mayor Francisko “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, and Department of Health Assistant Regional Director in National Capital Region (DOH-ARD NCR) Maria Paz Corrales.
Meanwhile, separate vaccinations will commence in five other hospitals in Metro Manila, namely the Lung Center of the Philippines, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center and Sanitarium (Tala), Veterans Memorial Medical Center, Philippine National Police General Hospital, and V. Luna Medical Center.
The simultaneous vaccinations will coincide with the scheduled arrival of 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca.
Galvez thanked the Chinese government for its vaccine donations which, he said, was “a testament of the strong bilateral relations” between the two countries.
“The Philippine government highly appreciates the swift shipment of the vaccine despite China’s limited suply and logistical challenges that have to be addressed,” he said.
“Our countries have been long-time allies and we are pleased that this partnership remains as strong as ever as we fight this global pandemic,” he noted.
With the arrival of the Sinovac vaccines, Galvez expects that theere will be a significant decrease in the number of active cases in the country.
On Sunday, a total of 2,113 new COVID cases were recorded in the country, bringing the total number of cases to 576,352.
Of these, 29,763 cases were listed as “active cases” or those who have yet to recover; 12,318 resulted in deaths (with 29 new deaths); while 534,271 have recovered (9,418 new recoveries).
Galvez also said that the vaccines will provide an added layer of protection for the Filipino people which may lead to “less stringent community quarantine restrictions, increase economic activity, and a greater sense of normalcy.”