Pfizer vaccines arrive in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 10) — The country received 193,050 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.

DHL flight LD457 landed at 8:51 p.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.

The vaccines are from COVAX, a global initiative led by the World Health Organization, Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which seeks member countries' equitable access to vaccines.

In a joint statement released by the Department of Health, WHO and UNICEF on Monday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Pfizer vaccines will be used on priority groups A1 to A3, adding that the vaccines would continue to boost confidence in the government's national vaccination program.

"Today's arrival of vaccines is one more step in the fight against COVID-19," UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said in the same statement.

WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said many of the vaccines that arrived on Monday would be administered to healthcare workers.

In an interview, Abeyasinghe said he hopes the arrival of the vaccine would encourage more people to be inoculated.

"We believe that with the introduction of the Pfizer vaccine, people who had some degree of hesitancy would have confidence because the Pfizer vaccines have a good track record," he said.

He added that achieving herd immunity may be difficult this year, due to challenges in the suppply chain.

"Whether we can achieve that within this year, may be a challenge. So we are looking at probably next year when can we achieve full herd immunity, because although we have planned for large quantities of vaccines to come, we have seen challenges on the global supply chain," he said.

Cabinet secretary Karlo Nograles said President Rodrigo Duterte was aware of the arrival of the vaccines and was "very happy" about it.

He added that the President was not able to attend the event as he had an important function to attend the next day.

In a separate statement, the US Embassy said it "welcomes the successful arrival" of vaccines to the country.

"As we fight the pandemic together, the United States will continue to support the Philippines' vaccination and COVID-19 mitigation efforts," said US Embassy Chargé d'Affaires John Law.

Earlier, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the vaccines would be distributed in Metro Manila and other major cities which can handle the product's storage requirements of -70 to -80°C.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. said a total of 1.3 million doses of the vaccines developed by the American firm may arrive in the country this month.

The Philippines was supposed to receive 117,000 doses of the vaccines in February but it failed to push through due to the lack of an indemnification deal.