COVID-19: Shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine to Arrive in Philippines Mid-Month

Jojo Rinoza and Luis Liwanag
COVID-19: Shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine to Arrive in Philippines Mid-Month A girl helps her mother collect a saliva sample in a test tube at a COVID-19 testing center at the Philippine Red Cross headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Feb. 4, 2021.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

A COVID-19 vaccine developed by U.S. and German pharmaceutical companies is expected to arrive in the Philippines in the middle of this month, the government announced Friday.

Officials noted that health workers and front-liners would be prioritized to receive shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which in January became the first COVID-19 vaccine cleared for emergency use in the Philippine by the country’s drug regulators. 

Health Secretary Francisco Duque would not give a specific date for arrival, saying the first batch would be “117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be available mid-February.” 

“Preparations have been ongoing to ensure smooth and efficient vaccine distribution once the vaccines are delivered,” said Duque, who visited a cold-storage facility in Manila as part of the government’s preparations.

An estimated 5 million to 9 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish firm, were expected “by the second quarter of this year from the COVAX facility,” he said, referring to the World Health Organization-backed “global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries.”

Frontline health workers, followed by people age 63 or older and those with co-morbidities will be the first to be vaccinated, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said. 

Next on the priority list are workers in essential sectors, the poor, teachers and overseas Filipino workers while the rest of the population would follow, he said.

The announcement came on the same day that the death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 11,000 in the Philippines. In addition, the health department recorded 1,894 infections, bringing the total to 533,587.

Globally, more than 105 million COVID-19 infections and more than 2.2 million deaths have been recorded, according to health experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Vaccine delay

Earlier this week, President Rodrigo Duterte defended officials from criticism that the nation had been slow to prioritize procurement of vaccines. He said the Philippines was not a wealthy nation compared to the United States European Union.

“You know this problem of COVID is really not that easy,” Duterte said, noting that the nation was in a fight where vaccines were going to the highest bidder.

Duterte and government officials initially pushed for Chinese-made vaccines. The president went so far as to vouch for their safety even as trials had not been completed. 

Critics, meanwhile, have pointed out that other Asian nations – including Bangladesh and Indonesia – have begun their vaccination programs.

On Friday, Duque expressed concern that the first expected batch of vaccines was small.

“While wastage is inevitable, it should be kept as minimal as possible especially for COVID-19 vaccines because we know that every dose of vaccine is important,” he said.


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