Arrival of Pfizer doses in PH seen to boost vaccine confidence – WHO

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 11) — The World Health Organization believes the much-awaited arrival of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the Philippines may help boost Filipinos' confidence in vaccines.

WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe on Monday said people who have apprehensions about getting a COVID-19 shots will be more open to getting a shot using the Pfizer vaccine.

“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 told reporters during the arrival of vaccines. “We believe those sections of people who have some apprehensions about receiving COVID vaccine will be confident enough to accept the Pfizer vaccine.”

Abeyasinghe was referring to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s reported efficacy rate. The DOH said the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 seven days after the second dose.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, in a statement, thanked the COVAX facility for the donations, saying the government “will continue to boost public confidence in our national vaccination program.”

Health workers will be among the first to receive the vaccine, followed by senior citizens and those with comorbidities. Since these are donated doses, government will have to follow prioritization listings to ensure the country retains its COVAX allocations. Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao will be the first recipients of the initial batch containing 193,050 doses of Pfizer vaccines.

Abeyasinghe also said achieving full herd immunity for the Philippines remains a challenge, considering the limited global supply of the vaccines. Despite this, he said a combined effort of bringing both COVAX and procured vaccines may help the government reach its target of vaccinating 70 million Filipinos by the end of 2021.

“Whether we can achieve that within this year, maybe a challenge. So, we are looking at probably into next year by the time 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," the WHO representative said.

UNICEF Philippines’ Deputy Representative for Programmes Behzad Noubary pointed out that the Pfizer vaccines that arrived in the country have different expiration dates so they will work closely with the DOH and WHO to ensure that the doses will be used up before they expire.

Meanwhile, Vince Dizon, the National Task Force vs COVID-19 deputy chief implementer, gave assurance the Philippine government will indemnify people who may experience adverse events following immunization. This is pursuant to Section 10 of Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021.

WHO said another batch of 2.3 million Pfizer doses from the COVAX facility is expected in the next two months.