The Philippine COVID-19 vaccination program is finally underway. For weeks, we could only read about some countries like the United States innoculating hundreds of millions of their people. The Philippines has now joined their ranks as it began its own mass-vaccination program last Monday, March 1, after receiving the first shipment of 600,000 doses of China’s CoronaVac vaccine.
China is sending another 400,000 doses for a total donation of one million CoronaVac doses, President Dtterte said. The President himself is waiting for another China vaccine made by Sinopharm which, he said, his doctor has advised him to take as it has been assessed to be better for older people.
Last Thursday night, a shipment of 525,600 doses of the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca vaccine arrived and were administered the next day. The AstraZeneca vaccines are from the COVAX Facility for Global Access (COVAX), which had been organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) along with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to ensure that the world’s poorer nations get their share of vaccines.
Also expected to arrive at any time are 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca ordered by local government units and private companies, who plan to conduct their own mass vaccinations for their own workers.
The US vaccine Pfizer is due to arrive next month, also under COVAX. Another US vaccine — Johnson and Johnson — has allocated six million doses to the Philippines.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government plans to acquire a total of 148 million doses to innoculate some 70 million of the country’s 110-million population, which would mean “herd immunity” for COVID-19 for the entire country.
Last Thursday, WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe reminded the Philippine government of the priorities set by WHO with the various recipient countries — that the first jabs of WHO-donated vaccines should go to healthcare workers.
Malacanang admitted that some officials had indeed been innoculated with the first vaccines from WHO, but, it explained, this was done so as to help build public confidence in vaccines. In some countries, their presidents and prime ministers had themselves photographed taking their shots. Thus several well-known Philippine officials had themselves photographed taking their shots as part of this effort to win public acceptance and support for the vaccination program.
In welcoming the first COVAX shipment at the airport, President Duterte said: “I would like to appeal to all our kababayans. Please get vaccinated against COVID-19 and be the government’s partner in preventing the further spread of the disease. These vaccines are safe and they are the key to the reopening of our society.”