“When are the vaccines coming?” That was the question in the minds of many Filipinos after noticing the various dry runs being performed in anticipation of the start of the vaccination drive against COVID-19. The Department of Health even gave some dates for when vaccines might arrive, only for none to show up at first. Some paperwork needed to be done, apparently. Then the Chinese government sent over 600,000 doses of CoronaVac from their manufacturer Sinovac Biotech. Even still, some Filipinos are holding out for another promising vaccine, from UK-Sweden’s AstraZeneca. After several delays, their vaccine has finally arrived in the country this past Thursday.
GMA News Online reports that AstraZeneca vaccines against COVID finally landed in the Philippines on the evening of March 4. Initial delivery of 487,200 doses of the vaccine were sent over courtesy of COVAX, a facility initiative under the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure vaccines against the pandemic could be made available even to countries without the purchasing power of major nations. As with the CoronaVac shipment earlier this week, this precious cargo of COVID vaccines were welcomed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who observed the unloading from a KLM flight originating in Belgium at NAIA Thursday night.
AstraZeneca’s COVID vaccine, developed in collaboration with Oxford University, has been a favored vaccine brand for a number of Filipinos against the pandemic, particularly among the medical front-liners who are the priority to receive the earliest doses. This too was the vaccine of choice for a number of LGUs that have entered into agreements with AstraZeneca and the national government for large orders of doses. One of its primary selling points was that it could be stored in cold enough temperatures, unlike other COVID vaccines that need below-freezing storage facilities.
This vaccine is not without problems however. The AstraZeneca vaccine trials in the UK were cast into doubt due to under-dosing of some test subjects. Also questioned was the discrepancy of efficacy. As most COVID vaccines require a double does given at fixed intervals, a study revealed that two full doses of AstraZeneca vaccine was only 62% effective. Yet a half-dose first injection followed by a full-dose second shot somehow recorded a 90% efficacy rate.
Even though AstraZeneca’s vaccines are now in the Philippines, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles notes that the government must first wait for an assessment from the National immunization Technical Advisory Group about where these doses are best deployed to. Therefore, no date can be given on when AstraZeneca will be distributed across the country for utilization.
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