Our mass vaccination program vs COVID-19 is finally under way

Published March 8, 2021, 12:19 AM

by Manila Bulletin

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.”