Over 2M AstraZeneca vaccine doses arrive in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 8)— The country on Saturday received the third batch of coronavirus vaccine developed by British-Swedish company AstraZeneca from the global COVAX facility.

A total of 2,030,400 AstraZeneca doses landed in Manila Saturday afternoon. This is in addition to the 525,600 doses delivered in March by COVAX— a global initiative led by the World Health Organization, vaccine alliance Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations that seeks member countries' equitable access to vaccines.

The shipment — the largest tranche the Philippines received from COVAX thus far — was welcomed by officials of the country's pandemic task force, the WHO, and UNICEF.

Who is it for?

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the newly-arrived AstraZeneca doses will be allocated for individuals under the A1-A3 priority groups.

"We would like to emphasize that these vaccines will be given to those people who have the burden of disease and death particularly our healthcare workers, senior citizens, and those people with immune-compromised comorbidities," Galvez told a press briefing following the arrival ceremony.

Galvez added the vaccines will be distributed nationwide, and will likewise prioritize areas with higher active COVID-19 cases.

The deployment of the vaccines will also begin "immediately," Galvez added.

"Once these are accounted for, [they] will be deployed immediately. Starting tomorrow, deployment will start," he said.

Galvez and fellow task force officials expressed gratitude for the new COVAX donation, adding that the delivery will help ease the worries of AstraZeneca vaccine recipients looking for their second dose.

Guidelines on AstraZeneca use

Local experts recommend giving two doses of AstraZeneca to people aged 18 and older, four to 12 weeks apart. In early April, the country hit the pause button on the rollout of AstraZeneca vaccines for those below 60, after European drug regulators found a possible link between this shot and "very rare" cases of blood clots with low platelet count.

The Department of Health has lifted the suspension after conducting a review, saying the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine still outweigh the risks. Additional guidelines will be implemented as a precaution.

The government is expecting this month the arrival of seven million COVID-19 vaccines in all.

The country aims to vaccinate up to 70 million Filipinos this year to achieve herd immunity. Over two million doses have been administered since the country began rolling out its COVID-19 vaccination program in March.