When the year 2021 began, the news has been pretty optimistic to those who have been forced to do nothing but wait out 2020 because of the COVID pandemic. Several vaccines against the infectious and potentially deadly virus have been approved after testing, and a number of countries that have gotten their does from the pharmaceutical companies that made them have since started vaccinating their citizens. As for the Philippines, dry runs at community vaccination sites and alternate “recipient” lists are the most that can be done, as everyone waits for the vaccines to come. COVAX was supposed to send some by February 15, but that was apparently not definitive.

The Philippine Star would have it that it is not yet certain that COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility will indeed arrive Monday next week. This was a surprising pronouncement from the Department of Health (DOH) this Wednesday, February 10. A briefing by Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire sort of de-confirmed the ironclad vaccine delivery date of February 15, saying it was a tentative schedule given by COVAX. It conflicts with Palace spokesperson Harry Roque’s statement that vaccination could proceed immediately after the vaccines arriving on the 15th were distributed.

“We need to understand that the dates provided to us were indicative dates,” says Vergeire in the press briefing, explaining that the only timetable mentioned by COVAX on delivering the vaccines was on the second or third week of February. Feb. 15 falling in between the two weeks of the month was therefore pegged preemptively as when the promised COVID vaccines will reach the country. But as the undersecretary clarifies, indicative only means tentative. “We don’t have confirmed dates yet.”

The vaccine package said to be on the way from the COVAX facility will include doses of the AstraZeneca- and Pfizer-made vaccines, says vaccination czar Carlito Galvez Jr. These two are the only ones given emergency use authorizations by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration. U-Sec Vergeire does assure that as soon as any shipment of vaccines for the country arrive, the distribution will take only one to three days whereupon the doses can be injected to approved vaccination recipients, initially health workers and front-liners. Simulations on quick transportation of vaccine loads have been done along the South Luzon Expressway.

Image courtesy of Manila Bulletin