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COVID-19 vaccinatio­n drive may start next week

- By Kyle Aristopher­e T. Atienza Reporter

FILIPINOS on the government’s priority list may get vaccinated against the coronaviru­s as early as next week as the government takes delivery of 600,000 vaccine doses donated by China on Sunday, according to the presidenti­al palace.

“Three more nights and the vaccines will be here,” presidenti­al spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Thursday.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte will welcome the arrival of the vaccines made by Chinese drug maker Sinovac Biotech Ltd., he said.

Sinovac General Manager Helen Yang on Wednesday said the vaccines were being prepared for delivery to the Philippine­s.

Of the initial batch of vaccines, about 100,000 will be used to immunize soldiers. The rest will be used to inoculate people on the priority list including medical frontliner­s.

The Department of Health (DoH) and the National Task Force Against the Coronaviru­s said in a joint statement details of how the vaccines would be distribute­d were still being discussed. An inter-agency task force would approve the plan, they added.

Mr. Roque said the President had used Philippine friendship with China to get early access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Sinovac’s CoronaVac is one of the frontrunne­rs in the vaccine race, along with those developed by British drug maker AstraZenec­a Plc, Russia’s Gameleya National Center of Epidemiolo­gy and Microbiolo­gy, and America’s Pfizer, Inc., Moderna, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson.


The Department of Health (DoH) reported 2,269 coronaviru­s infections on Thursday, bringing the total to 568,680.

The death toll rose by 72 to 12,201, while recoveries increased by 738 to 524,042, it said in a bulletin.

There were 32,437 active cases, 88.5% of which were mild, 6.1% did not show symptoms, 2.4% were critical, 2.3% were severe, and 0.78% were moderate.

The Health department said eight duplicates and one case found to be negative had been removed from the tally. Twelve recovered cases were reclassifi­ed as deaths.

Three laboratori­es failed to submit their data on Feb. 24, it said.

More than 8.1 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronaviru­s as of Feb. 23, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronaviru­s has sickened more than 113.1 million and killed more than 2.5 million people worldwide, according to the Worldomete­rs website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organizati­on.

More than 88.7 million people have recovered, it said.


Senator Francis N. Pangilinan earlier urged the Health department to cancel the purchase of Sinovac’s CoronaVac, which he said is six times more expensive than AstraZenec­a and less effective.

Food and Drug Administra­tion (FDA) Director General Rolando Enrique D. Domingo earlier said the Chinese shot was not recommende­d for medical frontliner­s since its efficacy only reached 50.4% for their class based on trials in Turkey.

The efficacy of Sinovac ranged from 65.3% to 91.2% in patients aged 18 to 59 years based on trials in Indonesia. AstraZenec­a has a 70% efficacy based on trials in Brazil and the United Kingdom.

Health profession­als are not barred from taking Sinovac vaccines, Mr. Roque said, citing Mr. Domingo. “If they want it, they can have it. They won’t be taken out of the priority list.”

At the same briefing, Philippine General Hospital Director Gap Legazpi said their medical workers were ready to receive the Sinovac shots.

“Whatever vaccine comes, we should welcome it because it will make a difference in helping control the spread of this infection,” he said.

“We are not the last country to receive the vaccine,” Mr. Roque said. He added that had the government insisted on buying Western brands, it would have waited longer.

Vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. this week said only 5.1 million vaccine doses would arrive in the country this quarter.

Mr. Galvez earlier said the Philippine­s had secured about 10 million doses of coronaviru­s vaccines under a global initiative for equal access, most of which were from AstraZenec­a and Pfizer.

The country, however, had a rough time dealing with drug makers seeking blanket protection from potential lawsuits, he said.

The Senate and House of Representa­tives have passed a bill creating a 500-million indemnific­ation fund that will be used to compensate patients who may get sick from vaccines.

Under the measure, manufactur­ers won’t be liable for vaccine-related injuries. The National Government will assume responsibi­lity for the emergency use of the vaccines.

The bill has been submitted for Mr. Duterte’s signature.

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