General population vaccination may start in September

MANILA (AdChoiceTV News) — The Philippines is eyeing to vaccinate the general population by the third quarter of this year, with an inoculation rate of about 500,000 people per day, the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 said yesterday.

About 20 million to 25 million doses of COVID vaccines are expected to arrive in June and July, which according to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. would be enough to cover almost all priority groups under the national vaccination program.

“By June, the A4 and A5 priority will begin and the targeted adult population and general populace may start by September,” Galvez said in a Palace briefing.

The current supply of vaccines is intended for health frontline workers, medical staff, senior citizens and those with comorbidities. While some local government units have already started vaccinating the A2 and A3 categories, others have yet to finish vaccinating health workers.

Galvez is hopeful that the A4 and A5 priority groups, composed of economic frontliners and indigents, will begin getting vaccines in June. However, a symbolic vaccination will be done among more than 5,000 laborers, including overseas Filipino workers, on May 1 to mark Labor Day.

He noted that with the expected “accelerated” delivery of vaccines and the rest of the expected deliveries this second quarter, the country is already targeting a daily rate of 500,000 jabs and, “later on, two to three million per week.”

The Philippines has so far received 4.025 million COVID-19 shots, about 1.8 million of which have been injected into 1.5 million Filipinos.

Before the month ends, Galvez said the government would push to breach the two-million mark.

“We received a letter from COVAX and Gavi that we will receive 2,355,210 Pfizer doses,” he revealed, adding that this batch will arrive “not later than June.”

Healthcare workers from COVID-19 referral hospitals in Metro Manila were supposed to have received Pfizer vaccines as early as February when the government said the rollout of the first batch of vaccines from the COVAX Facility would arrive, only to be snagged by the lack of an indemnity deal.

Galvez said the government finally was able to iron out with Pfizer the legal impediments that caused the delays, particularly the clause that negates vaccine manufacturers’ immunity from suits – which was willful misconduct and gross negligence in the administration of their vaccines.

“Pfizer saw the Philippines as a special case because we had that case with Dengvaxia and considering that they also saw challenges,” he explained. “What they did was (to have) lengthy negotiations to establish an understanding between ‘gross negligence and ‘willful neglect.’ ”

“This is the legal impediment, the language, that was completely ironed out,” he said.

Pfizer’s vaccine is the second cheapest in the Philippines’ current vaccine portfolio after AstraZeneca. It is also one of the brands with the highest efficacy rates at 95 percent, but requires storage in sub-zero temperatures.

Meanwhile, the NTF announced yesterday that the government has received 500,000 doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac, which completed the government-procured 1.5 million doses from the Chinese drug maker for this month.

The China-made vaccines arrived via commercial plane Cebu Pacific at 7:35 a.m. at the NAIA Terminal 2 and would be distributed in areas experiencing high cases of COVID-19, including Metro Manila.

Cebu Pacific has transported more than 760,000 doses of vaccines, approximately 264,000 of which were delivered to Bacolod, Cotabato, Puerto Princesa, Tacloban, Tuguegarao and Zamboanga.

To date, the country has received a total of 3.5 million Sinovac vaccine doses, including the one million doses donated by the government of China.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. remains hopeful that the United States will share its excess vaccines with the Philippines, noting that the country has already administered more than 200 million doses since US President Joe Biden took office, fulfilling a pledge to reach that target within his first 100 days in office.

More vaccines

Sen. Bong Go said about 10 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses are expected to arrive before the end of the first half of this year as the government accelerates its vaccine rollout to eventually achieve herd immunity and bring back normalcy in the country.

He noted that 3,525,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have arrived as of April 28. An additional 500,000 Sinovac doses also arrived this week, while the delivery of initial doses of Gamaleya Sputnik V from Russia are still being finalized.

Go said the government aims to achieve its target of vaccinating around 70 percent of the country’s population against COVID-19 in 2021 to achieve herd immunity as about 10 million more vaccine doses are expected to arrive before the end of the first half of 2021.

With the arrival of more vaccines in the country, he called on the public to trust the government’s vaccination program and appealed to them to follow the vaccination priority list.

“Let’s trust the government. Don’t be afraid of the vaccine, be afraid of COVID-19. The vaccine is our only key to gradually return to normal life,” he stressed as he reiterated the call to avoid the VIP treatment in the vaccination program.

“That is why I call on our countrymen to follow the government’s priority list. We must prioritize frontliners, senior citizens, persons with comorbidities. It is important that we put the frontliners first. They are the ones fighting in this war, we must arm them. They don’t just become frontliners, their lives are in danger, so 1.7 million health frontliners must be vaccinated and the others will follow,” Go pointed out.

He also urged the public to strictly follow the government’s health protocols against COVID-19 as it seeks to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

“The government is doing everything to get the vaccine. To be honest, the supply is really limited,” he said.

Article by Philstar via Albert Rovic Tan / AdChoiceTV News

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