Sputnik V vaccines from Russia arrive in Manila

After an initial delay, the first batch of Sputnik V vaccines procured by the government from Russia finally arrived in the country on Saturday, May 1, the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 said.

A commercial plane from Qatar Airways carrying the initial 15,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccines landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 in Pasay City around 3:50 p.m.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., vaccine czar and NTF chief implementer, and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III led government officials who welcomed the COVID-19 vaccines as seen in photos shared by the NTF to the media. They were accompanied by Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Marat Pavlo and Undersecretary Robert Borje, chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs.

Galvez said the 15,000 doses were part of the total 10 million doses secured by the government from Russian manufacturer Gamaleya Research Institute.

"The contract is expandable for up to 20 million doses," Galvez said in a statement.

The initial doses will be used for a dry run in preparation for the arrival of the bulk shipments starting this month, he said.

They will be deployed in Metro Manila where a surge of COVID-19 cases.is being experienced.

After the acceptance ceremony, the vaccines would be brought to the cold storage facility at Pharmaserv Express Inc in Marikina City, the NTF said.

The initial doses were supposed to be delivered on April 28 but it was delayed due to "logistical challenges" as there were no available direct flights from Russia amid the pandemic, Galvez had said.

With the arrival of the Sputnik V vaccines, the country now has three brands of COVID-19 vaccines in its inventory, including CoronaVac from Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech and AstraZeneca from a British-Swedish manufacturing company of the same name. Sputnik V has already secured an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

At present, the country's vaccine supply has already reached 4,040,600 doses.