20 million Moderna doses arriving May-June
The Moderna vaccine has so far shown a 94 percent efficacy, higher than either that of Sinovac or AstraZeneca which arrived in the past week.
AFP/Joel Saget

20 million Moderna doses arriving May-June

Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - March 6, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — About 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from US biotechnology company Moderna are expected by the end of May or early June, Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said yesterday as the Philippines ramps up its vaccination program in the second quarter.

The Moderna vaccine has so far shown a 94 percent efficacy, higher than either that of Sinovac or AstraZeneca which arrived in the past week.

At a Laging Handa briefing, Romualdez said the Philippines is also likely to get 117,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX Facility, initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

American company Johnson and Johnson has also allocated six million of its COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines, he added.

Overall, the Philippines is expected to receive over 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the US and the United Kingdom this year, Romualdez and British Ambassador Daniel Pruce said in separate interviews.

“I think you’ll see a steady stream of consignment arriving throughout the rest of the year, and in total I think by the end of the year we’ll have something in the order of 22 to 23 million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the Philippines,” Pruce said in an interview with GMA 7’s “Unang Hirit.”

Apart from those coming from COVAX, Pruce said the additional vaccine shipments would include doses purchased by the private sector and local government units.

A total of 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines arrived in the country Thursday night courtesy of the COVAX Facility, a scheme that helps ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to poor nations.

The country was expected to initially receive around 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca jabs.

Pruce explained the slightly lower consignment was purely due to practical and logistics reasons.

He said the Philippines is expected to receive four to five million doses more of AstraZeneca vaccines from COVAX.

“Of course within the COVAX Facility there will be further deliveries planned, I think four to five million in total of the AstraZeneca vaccine and other vaccines as well,” he said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said “up to 4.5 million doses” of AstraZeneca are set for delivery through COVAX Facility in two weeks’ time “and will be completed by the end of May.”

“These vaccines, in addition to other vaccines, shall provide protection to 20 percent of our entire population,” Lorenzana, chairman of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, said.

Pruce said the UK government has no plan of inoculating British citizens living abroad.

“We have no plans to roll out the UK’s NHS COVID-19 vaccination program to British nationals living overseas,” he said in a video message posted on the British embassy’s Twitter account.

“Wherever possible, British nationals who are resident here in the Philippines should aim to be vaccinated here. We will share information on local vaccine rollouts on our travel advice pages and social media platforms as they are announced,” he said.

US largest contributor

The US government welcomed the arrival of AstraZeneca vaccines from COVAX.

“The United States is proud to be the largest contributor to COVAX and we welcome the successful arrival of the first tranche of AstraZeneca vaccines in the Philippines. As we fight the pandemic together, the United States will continue to support the Philippines’ vaccination and COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” said US embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law.

The US has already donated P97.2 billion to COVAX, by far the largest contribution, to ensure the Philippines and other countries receive COVID-19 vaccines.

In February, the US government announced a total planned contribution of P194.4 billion to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment.

Australian Ambassador Steven Robinson, who was among the foreign diplomats who welcomed the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccines at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City the other night, said Australia is committed to ensure the Philippines would receive its share of vaccines from COVAX.

“I was pleased to join the President for the arrival of the first dozes of COVAX AstraZeneca vaccines. Australia advocated to ensure the Philippines was eligible for COVAX Advance Market Commitment,” Robinson said in a post on Twitter. The Australian government, he said, has contributed A$80 million to the facility.

Astra for Duque

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that with the arrival of AstraZeneca, he is now ready to be inoculated against COVID-19.

He said “what is good” about AstraZeneca jabs is that they can be giv-en to senior citizens like him. He is 64 years old.

“I can get vaccinated now. As a doctor who also does the vaccination and sees patients and inspects health care facilities, hospitals, temporary treatment and monitoring facilities (I am also at risk),” he said at a press briefing at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Sinovac vaccines are reportedly safe for those aged 18 to 59 only.

No 2nd batch if…

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the second batch of AstraZeneca doses from COVAX-Facility may not come unless the Philippines uses up the 487,200 doses that arrived Thursday night.

“The WHO told me that if ever it is not used up, the second tranche may not come,” Galvez said.

“Once they see that the AstraZeneca has been used up already, then the second tranche will come in,” he added.

The country has recently purchased a million doses of Sinovac vaccines to augment the 600,000 donated by the Chinese government.

“The first batch will be used up by mid-March or third week of March so that upon the arrival of another one million Sinovac, our supply will have an overlap,” Galvez said.

Lorenzana earlier called on the public to reject false information about Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines.

“Criticizing the vaccine without really knowing the technical facts will only discourage people from joining the vaccination program,” he said.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director general Eric Domingo noted that 13,629 health care workers have been given Sinovac vaccines as of yesterday.

Domingo added that 122 of them experienced side effects while three had serious allergies “but all vaccinees are OK.”

He said that more recipients may experience side effects when they receive the second dose because that’s when the body is mounting a stronger immune response.

The official added that on the second dose, the immune system responds more to infection so a vaccine recipient may have mild reactions.

In Pampanga, meanwhile, the provincial government led by Gov. Dennis Pineda has unveiled a cold storage facility for vaccines, particularly AstraZeneca, which it has ordered and is expecting delivery by June or July.

The Provincial Vaccine Cold Storage Facility, which houses six freezers, is located at the Provincial Engineer’s Office Compound in Barangay Sindalan in San Fernando. –  Sheila Crisostomo, Jose Rodel Clapano, Ric Sapnu, Ding Cervantes, Michael Punongbayan

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