The bulk of COVID-19 vaccines will arrive in the second quarter this year, National Task Force Against Covid-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said Sunday.
Galvez, also the vaccine czar, said once the vaccines arrive, the government will be able to significantly scale up its immunization program to attain herd immunity against COVID-19.
Amid criticism of the slow pace of the vaccination effort, Galvez said the limited supply of vaccines is a global problem.
"The current production capacity of vaccine manufacturers simply has not been able to keep up with global demand," he said, adding that most of the COVID vaccines have been pre-ordered by developed countries.
“As much as we would like to conduct a full-scale vaccination program, we are however constrained by the current limited supply of vaccines in the world market. And this is the same problem being faced by most nations around the world,” he said.
The government is doing its best to ensure the proper containment of the COVID-19 pandemic through improved testing, contact tracing, treatment, and isolation capacity, Galvez said.
"And as we ramp up the implementation of our vaccine program starting with our health workers, inoculating 1 million Filipinos is only the beginning of our aggressive and sustained campaign to achieve herd immunity and finally put an end to the pandemic," he said.
Galvez said the vaccination rollout will not immediately end the pandemic, so the public must continue to adhere to minimum health standards and community quarantine protocols is still a must.
“For us to fully reopen the economy, we must not forget the most important lesson we have learned over the past year: We cannot be complacent," he said.
On Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Russia’s Gamaleya Institute has completed its documentary requirements for its application for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V, which is now up for evaluation.
The Sputnik V vaccine is 91.6 percent effective against COVID-19, based on results published in the medical journal the Lancet.
Earlier this week the FDA said a team will fly to Russia to conduct a GMP (good manufacturing practice) inspection.
“Upon review on Monday, the team will evaluate if an inspection will be needed before we grant the EUA. We are only concerned about the vaccine. The focus is not on the GMP inspection but in the proof of GMP that the manufacturer is able to produce the vaccine consistently based on the approved specification that will be granted by the FDA,” said Dr. Oscar Gutierrez Jr., the FDA’s deputy director general for field operations.
Sputnik V has been approved in more than 15 countries. The Philippines plans to buy 20 million doses of Sputnik V.
Also on Sunday, a spokesman for the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) said the number of personnel willing to receive China’s Sinovac vaccines has increased.
PGH spokesman Dr. Jonas del Rosario, in an interview on Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar’s Cabinet Report program, said acceptance of the China-made vaccine among health care frontliners in the PGH has increased from about 8 percent to 25 percent in a week.
On March 1, the PGH became the Philippines' first official recipient of a vaccine against COVID-19.
At least 600,000 Sinovac doses arrived in the country.
“Around 1,400 [personnel] have already received this vaccine,” Del Rosario said, noting that most of those vaccinated have not reported any adverse side effects.
“Majority still like another brand but 25 percent is a big jump from 8 percent,” he said.
Del Rosario said that authorities conducted town hall meetings to explain the pros and cons of receiving the vaccine, which could have helped increase its acceptance among the hospital’s personnel.
“The best vaccine that you have is the vaccine that you have in your arm. So even if we want some of the other vaccines but they are not available, it’s useless,” Del Rosario said.
“And the problem is the cases are increasing again, we have variants coming in and really the rule is you have to get yourself vaccinated as soon as possible,” he said.