Sinovac jabs arriving Sunday
“It is a fine tradition between China and the Philippines to help each other in trying times. A friend in need is a friend indeed,” Ambassador Huang Xilian said, referring to China’s donating the vaccine doses to the Philippines.
AFP/Wang Zhao

Sinovac jabs arriving Sunday

Rudy Santos, Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - February 26, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Some 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Sinovac of China will arrive on Sunday, the Chinese embassy announced yesterday.

“It is a fine tradition between China and the Philippines to help each other in trying times. A friend in need is a friend indeed,” Ambassador Huang Xilian said,
referring to China’s donating the vaccine doses to the Philippines.

He expressed hope the arrival of the vaccines from China would kick off the Philippines’ nationwide inoculation program.

A Chinese military transport plane will deliver the cargo of CoronaVac doses at the Villamor Air Base, according to a retired Filipino-Chinese official who requested anonymity.

Sinovac general manager Helen Yang has confirmed the arrival this week of the vaccines now allowed for local application by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) through an emergency use authorization (EUA).

“After we have the EUA issuance, we cleared everything from the approval side and now we need to complete the schedule of delivery and custom procedures that would normally take a few days,” she explained.

Yang has also said Sinovac is “in close communication” with the Chinese embassy regarding the delivery of the vaccines.

Upon their arrival, the vaccine doses would be loaded onto refrigerated vans – after undergoing customs procedures – and transported to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City.

Despite the confirmation of the date of the vaccines’ arrival, the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) said a vaccine rollout is still being finalized.

“Specific details as to the allocation and subsequent rollout of the 600,000 donated Sinovac doses are still being evaluated pending the official recommendation of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) and its approval by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF),” a joint DOH-NTF statement read.

“Details of the planned arrival ceremony are still currently being finalized in close coordination with the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China,” the NTF said.

Yesterday, DOH reported that confirmed COVID cases nationwide jumped to 568,680 with the addition of 2,269 cases.

Out of the total cases, DOH said 92.2 percent or 524,042 have survived the infection, including 738 additional recoveries.

Active cases stand at 32,437, accounting for 5.7 percent of total cases. The bulk or 94.5 percent of the active cases are mild and asymptomatic.

With additional 72 deaths, COVID-related fatalities rose to 12,201. The figure represents 2.15 percent of total cases.

Health workers’ turn

Anti-COVID task force chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said he hopes the arrival on Sunday of the vaccines would make possible the inoculation of medical frontliners by the first week of March.

He confirmed a Chinese military aircraft would deliver the vaccines.

Galvez also noted that some mayors, including Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, have volunteered to be vaccinated with Sinovac in public to boost the people’s confidence in the vaccine.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said 100,000 of the 600,000 doses scheduled to arrive on Sunday would be administered to soldiers and policemen.

It was not clear whether President Duterte would push through with plans to personally welcome the shipment of vaccines at the airport.

Roque could not tell the actual date of inoculation of medical frontliners but has told Philippine General Hospital chief Dr. Gap Legaspi that there might be a need to prepare those who have consented to get inoculated by Monday.

“I will have to coordinate. But I know, all we need is one day and then we will roll out. So, if it arrives on Sunday, if I am not mistaken, then we can rollout on Monday, because many of our fellow countrymen are already very excited,” he said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, meanwhile, again made a pitch for vaccination, saying it could at least protect an individual from getting severe case of COVID-19 even if it could not make him totally immune to the virus.

“Number one, it will reduce death. Number two, it will reduce symptomatic cases, you can prevent the symptoms such as cough, fever and flu,” he said, explaining the vaccines’ benefits.

“And it will prevent progression to severe form of COVID-19 infection. And, therefore, prevent hospitalization,” he said.

Pitching for Sinovac

Duque said vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sinovac have 100 percent efficacy rate in preventing severe COVID infection.

“That’s the most important because deaths involved only those with severe cases,” he said.

“So, if you are able to prevent severe infection, there will be no death. And Sinovac belongs to that group that offers or provides 100 percent efficacy or effectiveness. So I am not surprised that some countries, despite the indications in the issued emergency use authorization, they opted to still include their health care workers within the age group of 18 to 59 years,” Duque told the President at the IATF meeting on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Department of Finance (DOF) has approved the inclusion of all COVID-19 vaccine imports under its Mabuhay express lane to expedite clearance of shipments and processing of tax and duty exemptions.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III also approved the waiving of filing fees for vaccine applications under the Mabuhay Lane and the use of the Tax Exemption System (TES) Online Filing Module in processing of imports “to further support the government’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program.”

Tax exemptions in the express lane, which is under the DOF’s revenue office, will be processed within 24 working hours.

DOF said these tax exemption policies will be incorporated in the inter-agency guidelines for the implementation of a One-Stop Shop for International Donations and Government Procured COVID-19 Vaccines prepared by the DOF, DOH, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the FDA.

Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko recommended the inclusion of COVID-19 vaccine imports in the express lane “regardless of the applicable legal basis,” to “allow for the expedited processing of the tax and exemption of such applications.”

The finance chief is authorized to include additional sectors that may avail themselves of the express service under the Mabuhay Lane.

Vaccines donated to government agencies and accredited private entities would also be processed in the express lane.

“We add that the Mabuhay Lane currently processes all Relief Consignment under Section 120 in relation to 121 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). The Lane is expected to process all COVID-19 vaccines which may qualify as relief consignment,” said Tionko.

Under the CMTA, relief consignment imported during a state of calamity and intended for the use of calamity victims shall be exempted from the payment of duties and taxes.

The Mabuhay Lane was established to expedite the processing of applications for the tax and duty exemption of certain groups of importers, including export-oriented firms, returning residents, as well as non-profit, non-stock educational institutions. – Christina Mendez, Mayen Jaymalin, Neil Jayson Servallos, Czeriza Valencia

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