National Policy Against Covid-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., on Sunday lauded the expected arrival of the first wave of Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines from the COVAX Facility.
“This positive news is a testament that under the COVAX facility, it ensures equitable distributions of vaccines throughout the globe, which bodes well with the Duterte’s administration principle of “Walang maiiwan, walang iwanan” (No one will be left behind),” Galvez said in a statement.
Galvez said at least 5.6 million vaccine doses produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca are expected to arrive in the country within the first quarter this year to jumpstart the country’s national vaccination program as part of the global efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Today, we received a letter from Aurélia Nguyen, managing director of the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility, officially informing the Philippine government that the country stands to receive a total of 9,407,400 doses from the two pharmaceutical makers within the projected first and second quarters of this year,” he said.
Galvez said the vaccines under COVAX “can now inoculate our healthcare workers, medical-related personnel, and other front-liners”.
The regional review committees from the WHO, UNICEF, and Gavi granted the Philippines two vaccine brands that have been “authorized or very close to being authorized by WHO through an Emergency Use Listing (EUL),” according to the letter.
In its letter, the COVAX Facility said the Philippines will receive 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which are expected to be delivered in mid-February and will cover the first quarter supply commitment.
Galvez said the delivery confirmation of the supplies for the succeeding quarters will be announced later.
The country is also set to receive 5,500,800 to 9,290,400 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines.
As the company awaits the issuance of its Emergency Use Listing (EUL), Galvez said the “indicative” numbers of doses reflect only the supply for the first two quarters of 2021.
The initial delivery is scheduled by mid to late February as stated in the letter.
He said according to COVAX, the number of doses and the projected arrival of the vaccines are all indicative since it all depends on the global supply.
The Philippines, through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), earlier granted both Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA), which means that these vaccines can be safely administered once they become available.
Over the past week, the Covid-19 Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) team has been visiting cities in Metro Manila to monitor the ongoing preparations being carried out by our local government units and the private sector for the arrival of the vaccines, specifically the crafting of their respective local vaccine implementation plans.
Scaling up preparations
The team is scheduled to visit other areas across the country in the coming weeks, especially that the Philippine National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 vaccines has been finally approved for immediate implementation.
Galvez said the team has seen the preparedness of many LGUs and the private sector for the vaccine roll-out – from their vaccination sites, to their cold storage equipment and facilities, to their personnel.
Galvez expressed hope that these kinds of preparations will be replicated nationwide.
These latest developments came a year since the country declared its first confirmed COVID-19 case.
Galvez expressed assurance anew that under the leadership of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, the government will secure the targeted 148 million doses of safe, effective, and free vaccines to inoculate 70 million people by 2021 and realize the Philippines’ goal of achieving herd immunity within this year.
He urged Filipinos to set their fears aside and have themselves inoculated once these vaccines are available.
He also expressed assurance that all the vaccines the government will be administering must pass the stringent selection and evaluation process of the Vaccine Expert Panel, FDA, and the Department of Health. Galvez, meanwhile, cited the importance of the so-called “vaccine plus” or the strict observance of minimum health standards – the wearing of face masks, maintaining social distancing, and practicing proper hygiene.