Philippines to vaccinate 250,000 daily when most COVID-19 shots arrive

Philippines to vaccinate 250,000 daily when most COVID-19 shots arrive
A medical worker looks at a vial of CoronaVac, a COVID-19 vaccine by Chinese biotech company Sinovac, during the immunization drive at the Medical City at Ortigas Center in Pasig City on March 2, 2021.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — To meet its target of inoculating at least half of population this year, the government is targeting to immunize at least 250,000 individuals against COVID-19 every day as soon as its vaccine orders arrive in the third quarter.

“Our target is to [vaccinate] roughly 250,000 to 300,000 a day but it depends on the supply that we will get,” Vince Dizon, COVID-19 response deputy chief implementer, said in a briefing Wednesday.

The country began inoculating health workers last week using donated Sinovac shots from China and AstraZeneca vaccines from COVAX Facility, but it is not until July when orders paid for by foreign loans will arrive.

But the vaccination drive is off to a slow start. More than a week after receiving the donations, only around 44,000 doses had been administered. As coronavirus cases spike anew, experts stress the importance of vaccinating all of the country’s 1.7 million healthcare workers as soon as possible.

The Philippines, however, does not have enough doses to administer to medical workers. So far, it has 1.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

“In the initial stages it will be really difficult to measure this and have a steady state of inoculations per day simply because our supplies are just trickling in at the moment,” Dizon said in a separate interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.

The Department of Health, for its part, said it is not setting daily targets for the vaccination, citing the voluntary nature of the program.

“It will really depend on the acceptance of our healthcare workers or even the rest of the population,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.


To achieve herd immunity, the government seeks to vaccinate some 70 to 80 million. But the government can only start vaccinating other sectors of the population once all health workers and senior citizens get their shots.

“We really have to finish A1 (workers in frontline health services) and A2 (senior citizens) nationwide. That is our very priority because they’re really the ones at most risk for deaths and for exposure. That has to happen nationwide and we will do that depending on the supply,” Nika Hao, DOH COVID-19 surveillance and quick action unity deputy chief, said in a briefing Tuesday.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez earlier said the “major rollout” will only start in the third quarter at the earliest.

Local government across the country launched pre-registration systems for vaccination and entered tripartite supply deals with manufacturers and the national government to ensure that their constituents will receive vaccines for free.

In Valenzuela City, the local government aims to vaccinate 320,000 of its 620,000 residents. Similar to other cities and municipalities, it signed a supply agreement with British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca for 640,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, which are expected to be distributed between July and December this year.

“That’s the best they can do. It’s the same for all the LGU that signed up with them,” Mayor Rex Gatchalian said of the target vaccination dates.

While the ordered supplies have yet to arrive, the city opened pre-registration website for those interested to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Those who signed up will receive calls from the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit for validation and will receive schedules and designated vaccination centers for the administration of the first dose.

Once the first dose is given, residents will receive a “VCVax passport” which indicates the schedule of the second dose.

There are 17 vaccination centers in Valenzuela composed of 76 vaccination teams. The vaccination sites are mostly public schools but there are also covered courts and multi-purpose halls.

The city aims to finish vaccinating all 320,000 beneficiaries in just 116 days. To do that, it needs to inoculate 3,080 people per day. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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