Philippines expects 5.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to arrive by end-March

February 1, 2021 - 11:20 AM
Passengers wearing face masks and face shields for protection against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) get off a train in Manila, Philippines, January 29, 2021. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

MANILA — At least 5.6 million COVID-19 doses of two international COVID-19 vaccines are expected to arrive in the Philippines in the first quarter of the year, the chief of the country’s coronavirus task force said on Sunday.

The initial volume is part of the 9.4 million doses of the two vaccines – one developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, the other by AstraZeneca PLC – that are expected to be shipped in the first half, said Carlito Galvez, who also handles the government’s vaccine procurement.

Galvez said he has received a letter from Aurelia Nguyen, managing director of the World Health Organization-led COVAX Facility, informing the Philippine government of the shipment schedule and volume.

Review committees from the WHO, UNICEF and the Geneva-based vaccine alliance GAVI granted the country the vaccines after the Philippines demonstrated its preparedness to receive them, he said.

The country’s Food and Drug Administration has approved the emergency use of both brands.

The Philippines, with Southeast Asia’s second-biggest COVID-19 outbreak at more than half a million infections and over 10,000 deaths, aims to start immunizations in February.

The country is to initially receive 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine around midmonth, and 5.5 million to 9.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca brand, Galvez said.

The volumes though are “indicative since it all depends on the global supply”, he said.

The government aims to secure 148 million doses, aiming to inoculate 70 million people this year, or two-thirds of the country’s population.

The Philippines has also secured 25 million doses of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, with the first 50,000 expected to arrive in February.

—Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by William Mallard