Some 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 that are part of the COVAX Facility will be arriving in the Philippines by April, according to National Task Force Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon on Wednesday.
Dizon was referring to the Pfizer-BioNTech doses the government initially announced to be arriving in February but were eventually delayed due to lack of an indemnification law in the Philippines and also to logistical problems.
At least 1.12 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Sinovac and AstraZeneca have been delivered to the country so far. The Sinovac vaccines were donated by China while the AstraZeneca vaccines were also part of the WHO-led COVAX Facility.
Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines are given in two doses.
The Philippines has at least 1.7 million health workers and medical frontliners.
Dizon is confident that the 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be available to health workers by April.
The Philippines, which started its vaccine rollout on March 1, aims to vaccinate some 250,000 to 300,000 citizens against COVID-19 every day when the bulk of its vaccine supply arrives this year, an official said Wednesday.
The national government has said it aims to inoculate 50 to 70 million adults, or two-thirds of the country’s 110 million people this year to achieve what authorities described as herd immunity.
“We have a goal of inoculating of about 50 million Filipinos this year. To achieve that target we need to, for the remainder of the ear, especially when the bulk of the vaccine comes in, give roughly about 250,000 to 300,000 per day,” Secretary Vince Dizon told ANC’s Headstart.
The Philippines, which rolled out its vaccine program after the arrival of donated vaccines from Chinese maker Sinovac and Global Alliance COVAX Facility, has so far received more than 1.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for its health workers.
Of this, 600,000 were CoronaVac jabs and 500,000 doses were from AstraZeneca.
Vaccine baron Carlito Galvez Jr. is currently in India to secure 30 million doses of Novavax COVID-19 vaccine, which is an American brand but is manufactured in Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of medicines.
Meanwhile, Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran said the Philippines and Indian firm Bharat Biotech are in talks for a supply of at least 8 million coronavirus vaccines.
Kumaran said discussions were ongoing as Bharat Biotech awaits emergency use authorization for Covaxin, its COVID-19 vaccine, from the Philippine Food and Drug Administration.
“There are ongoing conversations for a supply for Covaxin which can range anywhere from 8 million doses upwards. I don’t think we are in a position to be signing anything yet,” he said in an ANC interview.
Meanwhile, Sen. Joel Villanueva said the only way to revive the economy and restore jobs and opportunities, especially for workers and MSMEs was hinged on the immediate roll out of the vaccination program.
“It cannot be overemphasized that our essential workers---our economic frontliners---be next in the vaccination line after medical frontliners,” said Villanueva in reaction to the 2020 unemployment rate of 10.3 percent or about 4.5 million unemployed workers.
“Before our workers can roll up their sleeves to work, they must roll them up to get their shots,” also said the chair of the Senate labor committee,
From a fiscal point of view, he noted that vaccines which give permanent protection were cheaper than a one-time ayuda (assistance).
“No matter how you compute it, what is to be injected in their arms is cheaper than any cash assistance that the government may want to put in their pockets. “
He said the help the workers needed from the government was not money that could tide them over a week, but gainful employment and livelihood that could only come after they had been vaccinated.
Sen. Risa Hintiveros said she was disappointed, as the economic managers should be too, that the January 2021 labor force outcomes were not much better than when officials last looked at them in October 2020.
The only solution, she said, was to immediately open up the economy by relaxing mobility restrictions.
“But how can we do it if COVID-19 cases are increasing and we just started the vaccines rollout?” she said.
Instead of relying on people to confidently rush in to consume and invest when the economy is reopened, we need to ensure “safety first” and support “low-contact high potential sectors” to get people out of this pit, she said.
Even before, Hontiveros said they had been calling to give priority to service contracting, help for safe return to work, budget for agriculture and digital skills and connectivity so more people could work and transact from home, so foreign economic demand for business process outsourcing type jobs could be tapped now that the domestic economy was not about to take off.
In related developments, a party-list lawmaker, to eliminate the hesitancy of the elderly in getting vaccinated, called on the Department of Health to explain what best COVID-19 vaccine should be given them.
“The DOH must be able to choose and explain which vaccine shall be the most efficacious to us senior citizens. The DOH knows best,” Rep. Rodolfo Ordanes of Senior Citizens party-list group said at a news forum.
Ordanes said he was willing to be inoculated to help build confidence in the COVID-19 vaccines among senior citizens.
“I am willing to be vaccinated to show our seniors it’s safe. Because the doctors will not advise it if will cause harm than good,” Ordanes said.
According to Ordanes, majority of the estimated 9.8 million seniors were willing to be vaccinated so they could finally go out without worrying about contracting the virus.
Ordanes also outlined other proposed legislative programs for the elderly sector. Among them, Ordanes said, are the proposed universal pension law, free vaccination for all senior citizens, and free hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis and other DOH-approved dialysis procedures for seniors.
At the same time, Ordanes urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development to speed up the release of the social pension of the indigent senior citizens.
Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines transported Wednesday from Manila shipments of AstraZeneca and CoronaVac vaccines, the fourth wave of distribution made by the government to the Visayas and Mindanao.
The flag carrier has flown a total of 25,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines and 17,030 doses of AstraZenica vaccines to the provinces of Legazpi, Cebu, Iloilo, Tacloban, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato and Davao.
“Today’s vaccine transport brings to 187,230 the total number of vaccine doses carried by Philippine Airlines to different regions of the country,” said PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.
She said flight PR-2141 left Manila to transport 16,800 doses of Sinovac and 1,000 AstraZeneca to Iloilo while flight PR-2983 flew to Tacloban to send 2,000 doses of Sinovac and 1,000 doses of AstraZenica.
Flight PR-1845 shipped 3,000 doses of AstraZeneca Manila to Cebu while flight PR-2519 sent another 2,250 doses to Cagayan de Oro.
In Davao, flight PR-8809 delivered 600 doses of Sinovac and 2,000 doses of AstraZeneca. Flight PR-2959 flew to Cotabato to ship 600 doses of Sinovac and 4,100 doses of AstraZenica.
Flight PR-2934 shipped to Butuan to deliver 1,480 doses of AstraZenica while flight PR-2923 delivered another 2,200 doses to Legaspi.
“We are privileged to be a major player in flying vaccines all over the Philippines. Our fleet, well-trained staff, and coordination efforts with the government have led to the smooth and efficient transport of these vital goods,” said Villaluna.
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