Not donation this time: 1M doses of PH-bought COVID vaccines finally… arrive

Published March 29, 2021, 7:46 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

The Philippines was given a much-needed boost in its pandemic response with the delivery of one million doses of CoronaVac vaccines from Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech on Monday, March 29, the first of the coronavirus vaccines that were actually bought amid questions on where the multi-billion peso loans of the government went.

President Duterte welcomes the arrival of 1 million Sinovac vaccines purchased by government (RTVM)

President Duterte spearheaded the arrival ceremony of the Cheld at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City which occurred on the first day of the implementation of enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the National Capital Region (NCR) and four nearby provinces. Duterte did not deliver a speech and left after a short program, unlike in other occasions where he attended vaccine deliveries.

The CoronaVac vaccines were delivered several hours after the Department of Health (DOH) recorded 10,016 new cases on Monday, a record-high tally in a single day, which pushed the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 731,894.

A commercial plane from the Philippine Airlines (PAL) touched down at the Villamor Air Base around 4:30 p.m. after it fetched the vaccines from Beijing, China earlier in the day.

The CoronaVac vaccines were the first procured COVID-19 jabs that were delivered to the country. Currently, the total vaccine supply has reached 2,525,600 doses.

“Yes ito na ang pinakaunang order natin at may susunod pa this coming April (Yes this is our first order and there will be more this coming April),” said National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr., who accompanied Duterte during the ceremony.

Galvez, the vaccine czar, explained that the government secured 25 million doses from Sinovac, the delivery of which would be made in tranches.

In April, Galvez said that the country will receive 1.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccines which would be followed by the delivery of two million doses in May; 4.5 million doses in June; until the 25 million doses are all delivered by December.

Galvez said that the arrival of the Chinese vaccines will help in the government’s plan of expanding the free immunization program so more people can get vaccinated.

“Sa countries na mayroong massive rollout, nakita natin na bumaba ‘yung incidence of hospitalization at death (In countries where there is a massive rollout, we have seen that the incidence of hospitalization and death have decreased),” he said.

He cited a study in Israel where incidence of death and hospitalization decreased by 95 percent, enabling its government to open up its economy this coming June or July.

Meanwhile, Galvez said that in the United States, where there is also a massive vaccination rollout, the incidence of death went down by 50 percent.

“Hindi napupunta sa severe cases. Ang Sinovac at other vaccines natin may 100 percent [efficiency in preventing] severe [cases] at hospitalization (We won’t have severe cases. Sinovac as well as other vaccines have 100 percent [efficiency in preventing] severe [cases] and hospitalization),” he noted.

The bulk of the newly delivered vaccines will be alloted in NCR, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal or NCR Plus which was placed under ECQ, the strictest form of lockdown. He said that the vaccination program will continue even if ECQ is imposed in NCR Plus.

He said the NTF already coordinated with the local government units in NCR and in the four affected provinces to discuss the strategies on how they can continue vaccinating its residents amid the limitation on the movement of the people.

Galvez, however, failed to mention how it will be done since the ECQ restricts the movement of people to curb the spread of the disease.

Further, a simultaneous vaccination of A1 to A3 priorities will also be implemented starting April 1, Galvez said.

This means that senior citizens (A2 priority), and people with co-morbidity (A3) can now be inoculated simultaneously with medical frontliners (A1). Previously, the government prioritized the vaccination of the medical frontliners to ensure their protection from the coronavirus.

On the other hand, the vaccination of the general public will likely commence in May, Galvez reiterated.