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COVID-19 WATCH

Gov’t eyes vaccinating 2 million health workers within March

MJ Blancaflor

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Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. received a shot of coronavirus vaccine from Chinese pharma firm Sinovac Biotech as the government began its immunization program on Monday.

The government is eyeing to immunize two million health workers within the month against Covid-19 as it expects the arrival of 5.1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines in the first quarter of the year.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday underscored the need to vaccinate all medical workers who are more at risk to contract Covid-19, saying “no one should be left behind.”

“We promise that we would work to vaccinate all our health care workers nationwide this month,” he said in a press briefing at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) where the government launched its Covid-19 vaccination program.

The Philippines began its immunization program on Monday, with health workers, military personnel, and top pandemic response officials like Galvez getting the first of the coveted shots.

Galvez said the Philippines is expecting the shipment of up to 5.1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, as well as those manufactured by the University of Oxford and British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca this month.

Aside from the 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine donated by the Chinese government delivered on Sunday, he said the Philippines procured additional one million shots from the Beijing-based manufacturer.

The country also expects the delivery of some 3.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine through the COVAX Facility, a global mechanism which aims to ensure equitable access to coveted shots.

Both vaccines have received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, along with jabs manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech.

Galvez said these doses would be used for health workers, who are at the top of the government’s priority list for vaccination which also included the elderly and individuals with underlying medical conditions.

He added that these vaccines would be shipped to other parts of the country upon President Rodrigo Duterte’s order, who, according to him, does want jabs to be “concentrated in one area.”

“So, geographically, the President said the vaccines should be delivered to the Visayas and Mindanao and all areas affected by the rising number of Covid-19 cases,” he said.

The vaccine czar, who also serves as the chief implementer of the country’s pandemic plan, also maintained that the bulk of vaccine shots would arrive in the third and last quarter of 2021.

Some 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines are supposed to be shipped to the Philippines as early as February 15 through the COVAX Facility, but the lack of an indemnification mechanism impeded its delivery.

President Duterte recently signed the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, establishing a P500-million indemnification fund for possible jab side effects.

The fund would be sourced from the contingent budget under the General Appropriations Act of 2021, and would be administered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp.

Galvez said the country is expecting a response from Pfizer-BioNTech for vaccine delivery.

The Philippines aims to inoculate up to 70 million Filipinos this year to achieve herd immunity.

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