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4.58M doses of AstraZeneca delivered by May—WHO

The global vaccine pool COVAX will deliver 4.58 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot by May, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

“We have already a commitment from COVAX for the delivery of up to 4.58 million AstraZeneca vaccines through May of this year,” Rabindra Abeyasinghe, the WHO representative to the Philippines told a news briefing.

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“And in addition to that, we will also be receiving 117,000 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines,” Abeyasinghe added.

He also said the number of additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be allocated by COVAX for the Philippines would be known by the end of March.

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44 million doses

Earlier, Abeyasinghe said the Philippines would receive 44 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX this year, with up to 9.2 million doses arriving within the second quarter.

But the Philippines, he said, should meet certain requirements to get the vaccines.

“To access these vaccines and the remainder of the vaccines that will be coming to the Philippines before the end of the year, the Philippines needs to demonstrate that they can first roll out the vaccines in an efficient manner with minimized wastage of vaccines,” Abeyasinghe said.

“[The Philippines should also ensure] that the vaccines are used according to prioritization by starting with protecting, if I remember correctly, 1.8 million health-care workers that have been identified for the first phase of vaccination,” he said.

After health workers, the next priority groups are elderly people and people with other illnesses.

Malacañang said earlier that 487,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would arrive in the Philippines on Thursday.

60 percent administered

On Monday, Carlito Galvez Jr., who handles procurement for the government’s vaccination drive, said the first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, initially earmarked for delivery to the Philippines in February, may be delivered by the second quarter of the year.

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Vince Dizon, deputy chief of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said on Wednesday that about 60 percent of the vaccines donated by China and procured through COVAX had been given to health workers.

Dizon told a news briefing that the country would get more than 3.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by April, enough to inoculate 1.7 million health workers.

“Our objective is that by midyear, we’re finished with our health-care workers, even [with] senior citizens,” Dizon said.

This month, he said, the Philippines will have more than 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with the expected arrival of 1 million doses of the Sinovac Biotech vaccine procured by the government and 400,000 doses more of the same vaccine donated by the Chinese government.

Part of the 2 million doses are the 600,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, also donated by China, that arrived on Feb. 28 and 525,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, also from COVAX, that arrived in two batches days later.

Dizon said the WHO had committed to deliver 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by April. He noted that many health workers prefer this vaccine, and said they could get it.

He said the government was optimistic that it could inoculate 50 million to 70 million Filipinos this year to achieve herd immunity.

“I think we’re OK with that [meeting the goal]. What’s just important is for a significant [supply of vaccines] to arrive,” Dizon said.

Indian vaccines

He said Galvez was in India negotiating for supplies of Novavax and Covavax vaccines.

Indian Ambassador Shambu Kumaran said in a television interview on Wednesday that his country and the Philippines were in talks for a supply of at least 8 million doses of Covaxin, a COVID-19 vaccine also developed in India.

“As you know, the registration for emergency use is still pending with the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and there are ongoing conversations for a supply of Covaxin, which can range from 8 million doses upward,” Kumaran said.

But the delivery depends on when a contract with the Philippines could be concluded, he said.

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