The government will procure 1 million doses of CoronaVac, produced by China’s Sinovac Biotech pharmaceutical company, this month, National Task Force Against Covid-19 chief implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said yesterday.
Galvez, who is also the country’s vaccine czar, said there is an “acute shortage” in the global supplies of CoronaVac.
“That’s why in all the Asean nations and even Muslim nations, we see that only Sinovac and Sputnik V vaccines are available,” he said in an interview with reporters at the Philippine General Hospital where he got his first dose.
The country is also set to receive some 3.5 million doses of CoronaVac from the Covax Facility.
Based on the vaccine deployment schedule, Galvez said 5.1 million doses of CoronaVac may arrive within the first quarter of this year. Another 26 million doses may be delivered by the second quarter.
“The main bulk of our vaccines will come in the third quarter and fourth quarter so more or less we could have 50 to 60 million doses each quarter,” he said.
Following the arrival of the 600,000 doses of Sinovac jabs on Sunday, the Philippines began simultaneous vaccination drives yesterday at various hospitals in Metro Manila, including the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, Veterans Memorial Medical Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, and the V. Luna General Hospital.
Galvez also received his first shot as he reiterated that the government will employ a stringent regulatory process to ensure the efficacy and safety of the vaccines.
Galvez also said the 170,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the Covax Facility may finally arrive in the country by the second quarter of this year.
The initial batch was supposed to reach the Philippines in mid-February.
“We should not expect that Pfizer vaccines will arrive as most of the countries have already ordered Pfizer and Moderna and also AstraZeneca,” Galvez said.
He also cited President Rodrigo Duterte’s recommendation to prepare a standby stockpile of at least 2 million doses of China-made CoronaVac to enable the country to lift restrictions imposed since March last year when the pandemic began.
“Once we have that stockpile and we will maintain 2 to 5 million doses, we can now convince the President to open the economy and also have the face-to-face education,” Galvez said, noting that the President realizes the economic contraction being caused by the health crisis.
“He is also sympathizing with the mayors because for him, lives must be saved first before the economy,” he added.
The possible lifting of restrictions may happen within the second quarter this year, he said.
ROAD TO NORMALCY
“Once we are able to gather enough volumes this year, we see that by mid-2022 we may sharply recover,” he said. The vaccination campaign and ongoing negotiations for the procurement of additional doses will also contribute to the country’s recovery, he added.*PNA