Cebu City and Davao City received Tuesday thousands of doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine as the government ramped up its vaccination drive against the coronavirus disease.
Some 7,200 doses of the Chinese-made anti-coronavirus jabs were delivered to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City where nearly 2,000 medical frontliners will be first inoculated.
Meanwhile, some 12,000 vials of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine were brought to Davao's Center for Health Development.
According to Department of Health-Davao Region director Dr. Annabelle Yumang, about 8,000 health workers in Davao City and Tagum City would receive their first dose starting Friday at the Southern Philippines Medical Center.
SPMC chief Ricardo Audan and Davao City health officer-in-charge Dr. Ashley Lopez will be among the first to be vaccinated in the south.
The vaccines, known as CoronaVac, were part of 600,000 doses donated by China. It arrived in the country Sunday.
The Philippine government launched its COVID-19 vaccination program on Monday, with health workers, uniformed personnel and other essential workers the first to be inoculated in the campaign.
A year into the pandemic this month, the Philippines has recorded over 578,000 COVID-19 cases, including infections with the more infectious British coronavirus variant. It has tallied 12,322 fatalities.
The government aims to inoculate 70 million of the 110 million people this year to achieve herd immunity and reopen an economy that in 2020 saw its worst contraction on record, due largely to tight restrictions on movement in place since mid-March.
But as the country officially rolled out the coronavirus vaccine, 20 adverse events following immunization (AEFI) were recorded as of Tuesday morning following the first day of the rollout of vaccines from China’s Sinovac, the Department of Health said.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the adverse events recorded were high blood pressure, pain at the injection site, itchiness, rashes, headache, and nausea.
“All of them are common and all of them are minor adverse events,” she said in a virtual briefing. Vergeire said the government, not the manufacturer, would be held accountable for AEFI since the vaccines are still under development and emergency use authorization (EUA).
Under the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Law signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on February 26, government officials, vaccine manufacturers, and authorized private entities are immune from suit and liability.
Vergeire said the DOH was “content” and “happy” with the first day of the vaccine rollout to several hospitals across Metro Manila.
At least 756 frontline healthcare workers from six hospitals in Metro Manila received Sinovac’s CoronaVac, with Philippine General Hospital chief Dr. Gerardo Legaspi being first to be inoculated in the country.
Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said more regions have asked for a supply of vaccines after the rollout in Metro Manila.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Chair of the National Task Force AgainstCOVID-19, also said that the roll-out of the vaccination program would hasten the country’s recovery from the pandemic. "The government is confident of its vaccine program. Our aim is for the Philippines to be COVID-free by 2022. Sinovac is one of many vaccines in the country’s program. As the others become available, we will distribute it nationwide so that the whole country may fully recover.
That is our number one priority," he said.
Meanwhile, Galvez said the government aimed to complete the inoculation of all health care workers in March to ensure the preservation of the country’s healthcare system.
He confirmed the Philippines was set to receive 5.1 million vaccine doses in the first quarter, including the 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government which have been allocated for healthcare workers.
In a related development, Senator Christopher Go said no politics to get access to COVID-19 vaccines as the “order of priority” of sectors as determined by authorities and health experts would be followed.
He guaranteed that the government would treat everyone equally regardless of their political views.
He said the vaccination program was based on science and not politics, especially when it came to providing access to those who needed them.
Rather than play the blame game, Go urged all government detractors to instead work with the government so the country might immediately recover from the pandemic.
At the same time, the country's flag carrier Philippine Airlines on Tuesday assisted the government in transporting to Cebu and Davao the shipments of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government.
PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said Flight PR8809 (RP-C9905) departed from Manila around 5:09 a.m. and arrived in Davao at 6:48 a.m. carrying 12,000 doses of CoronaVac vaccines.
"The 700-kilo shipment was loaded on the cargo compartment of our 199-seater PAL Airbus A321," she said.
Upon arrival at the Davao International Airport, the vaccines, placed in 20 boxes, were transferred to cold-storage vans, and it was transported to the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City and other hospitals.
Meanwhile, PAL Flight PR1845 (RP-C9928) left Manila at 6:22 a.m. and touched down in Cebu at 7:38 a.m. carrying 7,000 doses of vaccines weighing 450-kilos.
Meanwhile, the chairperson of the House of Representatives Committee on Health was the fist legislator to receive the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine from China-based Sinovac Biotech Limited two days after the arrival of 600,000 doses of Sinovac donated by China.
Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan, the panel's chairperson, took the COVID vaccine at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) as part of her eldest son’s allocation for the family as a surgeon at the VMMC and in support of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
“Let us not get afraid of being vaccinated. Let us protect each to fight this pandemic together,” Tan said after receiving the Sinovac jab.
“Let’s support the government’s vaccination program and help stop the COVID-19 pandemic”, she added.
Speaker Lord Allan Velasco earlier said he was more than willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in public to convince Filipinos that the vaccine was safe and necessary.