PH faces Pfizer vaccine delivery delay

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 11) — There will be "slight delays" in the delivery of 117,000 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, testing czar Vince Dizon said Thursday, even as he remains hopeful they will arrive within February.

During a Palace briefing, Dizon said the government is still processing some documents before the arrival of the vaccines from US drugmaker Pfizer and the United Kingdom's AstraZeneca.

Dizon refused to disclose further details, but noted the documents were being processed by the Department of Health, with the assistance of the World Health Organization and COVAX facility.

"We were assured na tinatapos na ito as we speak. May slight delays lang sa deliveries nung initial Pfizer [vaccine] na 117,000 [doses]," Dizon said. Officials earlier said that first batch of vaccines may be delivered around the middle of this month.

[Translation: We were assured that they are already finalizing it as we speak. There are slight delays in the delivery of the initial 117,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine.]

But Dizon said the government still expects to receive the initial batch "within February".

The initial batch of the Pfizer vaccines was supposed to arrive by mid-February.

For his part, WHO Country Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said there is "no delay" but he admitted that the Philippines is still missing some requirements to schedule the vaccine shipment. He said Health Secretary Francisco Duque informed him that the papers will be sent to COVAX within the day.

"We must acknowledge that the Philippine government has been responding proactively and very fast," Abeyasinghe told CNN Philippines' News Night. "No sooner than these requirements are fulfilled, we believe that the COVAX can schedule a delivery date."

The WHO official said once the requirements are met and cleared, delivery could be "as early as next week."

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire is not worried the delay in Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine shipment will affect the country's inoculation plan.

"Actually, it is a smart time to prepare for this rollout," she said in a briefing on Saturday.

"Ang gagawin na lang natin (what we are going to do) this week [is] we are going to finalize our plans with these hospitals identified to be eligible to receive these vaccines," the official added.

Late last month, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said at least 5.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, which may reach the country within the first quarter of 2021.

Galvez said the Philippine government secured 9.407 million vaccine doses against the COVID-19 from the two drugmakers.

The government is targeting to start the mass vaccination drive in the country this month. Under the government's immunization plan, health workers will be the first to get the shots.