Over the past few weeks the Philippines, or to be more precise the Department of Health, has been overseeing preparations for the national mass vaccination program against COVID-19, the global pandemic of which has been hurting the country and the world all of 2020. Several major hospitals and health centers held dry-run simulations covering the reception of vaccines arriving by air, transporting to cold-storage facilities, and distribution to vaccination sites for injection. The funny thing is that this was done even while no actual COVID vaccines have reached the country. That sad reality came to an end this past weekend, and this Monday the vaccination drive has begun in earnest.
The Philippine Star reports that the somewhat-delayed anti-COVID-19 vaccination campaign has finally begun in the country, made possible by the arrival of vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech this past Sunday, February 28. Early Monday morning, March 1, refrigerated trucks filled with doses of CoronaVac drove to vaccination centers at Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center, Veterans Memorial Medical Center, Philippine National Police General Hospital and Victoriano Luna Medical Center, and the Philippine General Hospital. It was at the PGH that the first officially-administered COVID vaccine was “symbolically” given, to the hospital director Gerardo Legaspi.
That first Filipino being openly vaccinated against COVID sets the trend for the first people in the country to receive this protection from the pandemic. Medical workers and professionals, select government officials, and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will get first priority. The doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac, numbering 600,000 in all, were donated to the country by the Chinese government. Of those shots, 100,000 have been reserved for AFP recipients while the rest are for the medical community, which have been at the front line for addressing COVID patients for so long.
Even with this shipment of COVID vaccines, called “doses of hope” by the vaccination czar Carlito Galvez Jr., there are still a number of medical and military personnel that are expressing hesitation, or at least deferring until another brand of vaccine arrives in the Philippines. Hanging over their heads are reports from tests in Brazil showing only 50.4% efficacy rate for CoronaVac among health workers who got COVID from patient exposure. Other countries like Indonesia and Turkey have recorded higher efficacies however, but this has not mollified many recipients much.
About the only other expected COVID vaccine arriving in the Philippines soon was from UK and Sweden’s AstraZeneca. Unfortunately, due to a global supply problem the scheduled Monday arrival was pushed back by another week.
Image courtesy of GMA News