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It’s a start

The country facing one of Southeast Asia’s worst Covid-19 outbreaks finally launched its much-awaited vaccination campaign on Monday after receiving 600,000 doses of the Sinovac Biotech vaccine donated by China.

The Philippines is among the last Southeast Asian countries to receive its first batch of vaccine due to delivery delays although it has reported more than 576,000 infections and 12,318 deaths, the second highest totals in the region after Indonesia.

The severity of the outbreak that has been dealt with lockdowns and quarantine restrictions has set back the country’s economy in one of the worst recessions in the region, sparking unemployment and hunger.

The arrival of the donated Sinovac doses was good news to the millions of Filipinos, who have been awaiting the start of their government’s vaccination program but the 600,000 doses is only good for 300,000 people, who will get two doses each.

The government has supposedly ordered 25 million doses from the China-based company Sinovac Biotech but no fixed date has been set for the final deliveries.

This symbolic start of the government vaccination program begins with a tiny fraction of the estimated 148 million doses needed to vaccinate about 70 million Filipinos for free in a massive campaign funded by foreign and domestic loans. It is hoped that the rest of the vaccines arrive later this year as unprepared governments struggle more to acquire supplies amid the global scramble for Covid-19 vaccines.

Thanks to the donation from China, the Covid-19 vaccination program of the Philippines is finally underway. The symbolic delivery of a vaccine with a lower efficacy rate compared to others developed in the West and Russia is a minor victory and monumental challenges remain before Filipinos can return to a normal life and the economy’s fully recovery. Government still has to settle its vaccine supply problems and find ways to counter increased vaccine hesitancy in the country after a politicized dengue vaccine scare stopped a massive immunization drive in 2017.

At this point, Filipinos have to admit that the best vaccine is the one that we can get our hands on. After the agonizing wait, the 600,000 doses of donated Sinovac vaccine that arrived on Monday is a start that is better than nothing. Let us hope our government will continue to deliver more vaccines in terms of quantity and quality as time goes by.*

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