PASIG CITY (04 March 2021) — With the arrival of the 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines from Europe tonight, National Task Force against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. is optimistic the government will be able to inoculate all of the country’s healthcare workers within this month or April.

According to Galvez, the first tranche of the 3.5 million doses committed by the COVAX facility to the country for the first quarter has been specifically allocated for senior citizen medical frontliners and healthcare workers.

He said this was the initial recommendation made by medical experts to offset the limitations of the Sinovac vaccine, which is advisable only for healthy individuals aged 18 to 59 years old.

This recommendation, Galvez said, is currently being reviewed by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG).

“Ang target po natin is as soon as possible, kailangan mabakunahan natin ang ating mga healthcare workers kasi ‘yan din po ang directive ng ating mahal na Pangulo na kailangan ay protektado po sila,” he said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

The vaccine czar said the rollout of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured by SKBio will begin tomorrow, March 5, to boost the ongoing immunization program being held in various public and private hospitals in the country.

Galvez said the government aims to vaccinate all medical frontliners and healthcare workers within a month’s time.

However, due to possible supply constraints being faced by vaccine makers, he said the goal now is to inoculate at least 70% to 80% of the two million members of this sector by March.

Galvez said the timeframe for the deployment of the vaccines will be similar to what the government had set for the 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines.

The government plans to complete the deployment of all Sinovac vaccines on hand within seven to 10 days.

Currently, 190,000 vaccine doses have been distributed to 32 hospitals in the National Capital Region, Cebu, Davao, and Cagayan de Oro, while around 10,000 doses have been administered.

Arrival of other vaccines

Galvez bared that the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) has already approved the purchase of one million doses of Sinovac vaccines and its Purchase Order will be signed today.

The vaccines, he said, are expected to be delivered within the third week of March.

Galvez said another two million doses will be ordered for April, three million doses in May, and five million doses for June and August.

He said purchase orders will continue to be made monthly until the supplier fulfills their commitment of supplying 25 million vaccine doses this year.

Meanwhile, Galvez said he will be in India from March 9 to 12 to conduct an ocular visit of the Serum Institute of India, the manufacturer of the Novavax vaccine.

“We will close our supply agreement sa Novavax and we are appealing na magkaroon ng early deployment ang Novavax this coming second quarter,” he said.

“So by second quarter po, ang pwede nating maasahan ay ‘yung 2.6 million [doses] na in-order sa Astrazeneca ng ating private sector at saka LGU, at the same time ‘yung Novavax, we are trying to have some millions of doses maybe this coming May or June,” Galvez added.

He said the country expects to receive a total of 19 million vaccine doses from different manufacturers within the second quarter of this year.

Galvez said this figure includes a “few hundred thousand doses” from Moderna, adding the supply agreement between the government and the company is now being finalized.


[Feature image is a file photo from the first day of inoculation in the country held at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), 01 March 2021.)