VILLAMOR AIRBASE, PASAY CITY — The country’s immunization program against COVID-19 received another shot in the arm with the arrival on Sunday night, March 7, of an additional 38,400 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines.

This brings to 525,600 the total number of vaccine doses the Philippines has received from the British-Swedish manufacturer, as the government ramps up the inoculation of its medical frontliners and health care workers.

To date, the country has received a total of 1,125,600 vaccine doses, including 600,000 Sinovac shots donated by the Chinese government, allowing the country to kickstart the implementation of its vaccine program on March 1.

During ceremonies welcoming the arrival of the vaccines, National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. thanked the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility for facilitating the vaccine shipment.

“The Philippine government extends its deepest gratitude to the World Health Organization, GAVI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and UNICEF for completing the delivery of the first batch of Astrazeneca vaccines from the COVAX facility as we accelerate the implementation of our national vaccination program,” Galvez said.

“With the arrival of the Astrazeneca vaccines in the country — all 525,600 doses — there is no doubt that the WHO-led COVAX is committed to carry out its crucial role of ensuring that less-developed nations have equitable access to life-saving vaccines,” he added.

To date, a total of 54,500 Astrazeneca vaccine doses have been deployed nationwide, with 1,500 sent to hospitals in the National Capital Region; 13,000 to Region IV-A; 10,000 to the Cordillera Administrative Region; and 20,000 to Central Luzon.

On the other hand, the government has already dispatched 317,350 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the People’s Republic of China to some of the furthest health care facilities in the country.

These areas include Culion in Palawan; Bontoc, Mountain Province; Marinduque; Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM); and the island-province of Basilan.

Galvez, together with Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, DOLE Secretary Bello, DA Secretary Dar, DILG USEC Florece and Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque flew to Davao and Cagayan de Oro last week to oversee the rollout of the vaccine program in the provinces.

These visits have provided a major boost to the government’s efforts to create greater confidence among Filipinos, especially among medical frontliners, in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines that are being used in the country.

According to Galvez, the arrival of the additional Astrazeneca vaccines will enable the government to sustain the momentum of its immunization program as it targets to inoculate all of its 1.7 million health care workers by April of this year.

“These vaccines are essential in maintaining the momentum of our vaccine rollout. Since we started our inoculation program on March 1, more and more Filipinos, particularly healthcare workers, have expressed their desire to be vaccinated,” he said.

“This will enable the government to achieve its goal of preserving the integrity of the nation’s healthcare system and ensure that it will be able to effectively manage a spike in COVID-19 cases,” Galvez added.

Meanwhile, the government had signed a supply agreement with US pharmaceutical company Moderna on Monday, March 8, for the delivery of 13 million vaccine doses.

He said that the vaccines are expected to arrive in the country by the end of May or early June.

Galvez said the government is also working out a separate tripartite agreement with the American manufacturer for the shipment of an additional seven million doses.

President Rodrigo Duterte has said that the government will ease up community quarantine restrictions once the country receives a steady supply of at least two million doses of anti-COVID 19 vaccine doses from various vaccine manufacturers. END