Philippines begins mass vaccination as Sinovac arrives

The Philippines has officially received the first batch of its coronavirus vaccine made by China-based pharmaceutical giant Sinovac Biotech.

The military aircraft from China carrying 600,000 doses of vaccine donated by the Chinese government landed on Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Sunday.

The Philippines was the last country in Southeast Asia to receive its vaccine, following Thailand and Vietnam which received their doses from AstraZeneca on February 24.

The Philippines was also expecting 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to arrive on March 1 amid a “global supply problem,” according to Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd.

In an interview with state-run television PTV-4, Duque was quoted as saying that the government received a notice from the World Health Organization that the delivery of 525,600 AstraZeneca vaccines will be delayed for about “a week.”

“They encountered problems with supply, so it will be delayed for about a week,” Duque said.

Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte was not expected to receive a Sinovac vaccine, saying that though he wanted to be vaccinated, his doctor wanted a different Chinese brand for him.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Sinovac’s emergency use authorization on February 22. It also recommended its use only to people aged 18 to 59 after separate Phase 3 trials in Indonesia and Turkey showed an efficacy rate of 65.3 percent to 91.2 percent.

The watchdog also did not recommend it for use of medical workers with high exposure to the disease, despite the interim National Immunization Technical Advisory Group on February 26 eventually approving it and saying that the Sinovac vaccine was “safe for use for healthcare workers.”

The country’s mass vaccination program was scheduled to begin on Monday with medical workers among the first in the group to receive the vaccine.

Duterte said health workers, however, have the choice and can wait for other vaccines to arrive in the country.

Photo by Katja Fuhlert from Pixabay