First batch of purchased COVID-19 vaccines reach PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 29) — The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines bought by the Duterte administration arrived in the country on Monday.

The arrival of one million doses of CoronaVac vaccines worth ₱700 million made by Chinese manufacturer Sinovac Biotech was witnessed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Philippines plans to procure 25 million doses of Sinovac vaccines by yearend.

Duterte, Sen. Bong Go, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duqsue III, National Task Force against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr., and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian were present to receive the vaccine doses at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City.

In a joint statement released by the Department of Health and the NTF, Galvez said the arrival of the vaccines was "great news."

"The arrival of these vaccines is great news as we are beginning to see the fruits of our negotiation efforts after months of hard work to provide vaccines for our people. This is but the first of the many other doses we have negotiated in order to achieve our goal of herd immunity," he said.

In the same statement, Duque said the arrival of the vaccines mean more people would be inoculated against the virus.

"The arrival of these vaccines is very timely. As we finish vaccinating healthcare frontliners, we will be able to use this new batch of purchased CoronaVac vaccines to extend vaccination to vulnerable Filipinos or those with pre-existing conditions and comorbidities who are at most risk of severe COVID-19 and highest chance of dying. This is most crucial especially now that NCR+ or the Greater Manila Area is experiencing a surge," he said.

READ: DOH lists seven comorbidities to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination

Earlier, the Chinese Embassy shared photos of the vaccines being loaded into a Philippine Airlines plane before they were shipped.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, concurrently chairman of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said the vaccines will be deployed to barangays in the NCR Plus bubble with high coronavirus infections, based on the suggestion of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.

Prior to this shipment, the Philippines has only received vaccines donated by China and other nations despite the Duterte administration incurring billions of pesos in loans from multilateral lenders. Beijing gave one million doses of CoronaVac and global initiative COVAX sent 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines.

Galvez bared on March 22 that the country has so far secured contracts with four COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers: Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Novavax.

Amid complaints from lawmakers and citizens about the slow inoculation drive, Galvez said the government is aiming to raise its weekly vaccinations from 30,000 to 300,000 or even up to 1 million per week, to achieve its goal of vaccinating 70 million Filipinos by yearend.