The country's vaccination drive against COVID-19 got another boost with the arrival of the first shipment of Moderna vaccines.
A total of 249,600 doses of the American-made jabs arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 via Singapore Airlines Flight SQ918 on Sunday evening.
"This is very significant as we now have five brands of vaccines in the country. It can create a lot of confidence because globally, this is the second (most used) vaccine by many countries. As what I have said earlier, the side effects of this vaccine are very rare, very negligible and most of the countries agreed that they are very comfortable with using Moderna vaccines," National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. told reporters in an interview.
The vaccines currently being used by the Philippines in its fight against COVID-19 are Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Sputnik V.
Of these initial doses, 150,000 doses were procured by the government, while 99,600 doses were purchased by the private sector, led by the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI), Galvez said.
“We will study the deployment of these vaccines because this is our first time handling Moderna. The majority of the vaccines will be deployed in the National Capital Region and later, we will give other urban centers and areas. The priority sectors for deployment are A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (persons with co-morbidities but we have committed the bulk of these vaccines to OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) and the seafarers and government front-liners,” Galvez said.
The Philippines has inked a supply agreement for 20 million doses of Moderna vaccines, which will be delivered in batches in the coming months.
Of this number, 13 million doses were procured by the government while the remaining 7 million doses were purchased by the private sector for their workers.
Galvez also announced that the government inoculated around 10 million Filipinos.
On Monday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III administered the country's 10 millionth COVID-19 vaccine to Nieves Catacutan, who belongs to the A5 group (indigents), at the Valenzuela City Astrodome Mega Vaccination Hub.
Galvez was accompanied by Christian Martin Gonzalez, executive vice president of ICTSI, David Gamble Jr., economic counselor of the US Embassy in the Philippines, officials of Zuellig Pharma, and Health Undersecretary Carol Tanio.
Duque said the latest shipment of 1 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine would be allotted to areas experiencing a surge in infections.
“We will be bringing these to the areas with a surge. We have a surge in Region 6, Region 8, and then we have of course Caraga, Region 10, parts of Region 11, Soccsksargen, Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) but we are still waiting for the certificate of analysis," Duque said.
Meanwhile, a member of the Vaccine Expert Panel, Dr. Nina Gloriani, said people who missed their second dose have up to six months to get fully vaccinated.
The DOH earlier said 113,000 Filipinos missed their scheduled second jab.
A DOH bulletin said the country has administered more than 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of June 27.
A total of 7,538,128 have received their first doses while 2,527,286 have already completed the required two doses, the DOH said.
“The total doses administered in the 17th week of our national vaccination reached a record high of 1,658,072 doses,” the DOH said.
“The government is urging eligible populations belonging to priority groups A1 to A5 to register with their local government units, get vaccinated, and complete the required number of doses as scheduled,” they said.
“Regardless of vaccination status, everyone is urged to continue practicing the minimum public health standards as you may still get infected with COVID-19 and infect other people,” the DOH said.
Among the 35.5 million essential workers included in the fourth priority group, 829,662 have received at least one jab while 12,340 have been fully vaccinated.
The Philippines has also inoculated 184,125 indigents.
In other developments:
• Cebu Pacific vowed to transport more COVID-19 vaccine doses to the Philippines after it successfully carried 2 million doses of vaccines from Beijing on June 24. To date, Cebu Pacific has flown 9 million COVID-19 doses from China and distributed 1.8 million doses across the Philippines.
• Ambassador to Canada Rodolfo Robles said the Philippines has expressed its intent to get some of Canada’s excess COVID-19 vaccines.
Canada has secured 180 million COVID-19 jabs for its 40 million people, which could mean an excess of up to 100 million shots. "I had the Philippines listed among those who are interested in getting the excess [vaccines] of Canada," he said in a Palace briefing.
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