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Philippines set to receive COVID-19 shots from COVAX facility
A city hall employee (L) takes part in a vaccination simulation in Manila on January 19, 2021, ahead of the expected arrival of COVID-19 coronavirus vaccines in the capital city next month.
AFP/Ted Aljibe

Philippines set to receive COVID-19 shots from COVAX facility

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - January 21, 2021 - 9:36am

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:22 p.m.) — The Philippines will receive its first doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility within the first quarter of 2021, officials announced Wednesday.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a joint release that the Philippines received confirmation of its participation in the COVAX facility, which will ensure an early rollout of COVID-19 jabs.

“The Philippines today received the country’s confirmation of participation in the COVID-19 vaccine financing instrument, COVAX Facility-Advance Market Commitment,” the statement released by the Department of Health read.

“With the country’s participation in the COVAX Facility, the country is set to receive vaccines in the first quarter of this year,” it added.

Up to 40 million doses 

The release did not mention a specific vaccine but Galvez earlier said that the country could receive shots from Pfizer-BioNTech through the COVAX facility as early as February. 

So far, only Pfizer has secured emergency authorization from the Philippine Food and Drug Administration.

In a briefing Thursday, Galvez said the country could receive between 30 and 40 million “free” COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility. 

COVAX is a globally-pooled vaccine procurement and distribution effort which aims to secure vaccines for 20% of the population in each participating country by the end of 2021, with funding covered for the 92 lower- and lower-middle income countries involved.

“I heard our allocation may be reduced to 16% to 15% [of the population] but that’s okay because we’re prepared with or without COVAX,” Galvez said in Filipino. 

Preparations for vaccine deployment

Galvez and Duque visited Wednesday three cold storage facilities that can potentially be used in the first part of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

“All of these preparations that we are undertaking are aimed at ensuring that the country is ready to receive, store and mobilize the COVID-19 vaccines that will come from the COVAX Facility,” Duque said.

The government’s target is to vaccinate 50 to 70 million Filipinos against COVID-19 in 2021 but this hangs on the availability of vaccines, which had been mostly procured by wealthy nations. The government has faced criticism for its slowness in procuring vaccines, which officials have repeatedly denied.

The country has so far secured deals from US-based Novovax, China’s Sinovac and British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca.

Aside from securing vaccine supplies, the government also faces the difficult challenge of storing shots and distributing them across the archipelago as well as regaining public trust on vaccination after the highly politicized Dengvaxia controversy. — with report from Agence France-Presse

COVID-19 VACCINE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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