AstraZeneca vaccine eyed for Philippines’ senior health workers

Sofia Tomacruz

FRONTLINERS. Medical workers take a moment to perform a solidarity clap for their fellow frontliners outside the Santa Ana Hospital in Manila on April 9, 2020.

Rappler file photo

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr says the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group is meeting to discuss how the initial 487,200 AstraZeneca doses will be distributed

The first shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the Philippines may be allocated for senior healthcare workers unable to receive Sinovac’s CoronaVac, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr said on Thursday, March 4.

Galvez said this strategy is being considered by members of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG), who were meeting to discuss how the initial 487,200 doses will be distributed across the country. 

“Most likely – may mga doctor kasi na nagsasabi i-priority natin ‘yung mga senior healthcare workers…. Our recommendation is for ‘yung mga senior healthcare workers,” Galvez said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ Pinky Webb. 

(Most likely – we have doctors who are saying we should prioritize senior healthcare workers. Our recommendation is for the senior healthcare workers [to get the AstraZeneca vaccine].)

Galvez gave the update as the Philippines is scheduled to receive its first delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine supplied by the global COVAX Facility on Thursday night. The delivery was supposed to be last Monday, March 1, but was stalled by logistical problems and supply concerns.

The 487,200 doses arriving on Thursday are fewer than the 525,600 doses the Philippines had first expected to receive last Monday.

Galvez said the smaller delivery is due to logistical and packaging constraints as the AstraZeneca vaccine will be delivered to the Philippines through a commercial flight.

Why this matters

Health officials are hoping more health workers will be inclined to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, the only other option to be made available so far aside from Sinovac’s vaccine donated by China to the Philippines.

Two days since the Philippines started rolling out Sinovac’s vaccine, only some 8,559 health workers have been vaccinated. Enthusiasm for the vaccine was muted amid concerns over its lower efficacy for health workers exposed to COVID-19 and the robustness of its data compared to other vaccines.

But while a considerable number of health workers had turned down Sinovac’s vaccine, opting to wait for AstraZeneca’s shot, doses are still extremely limited for the priority group.

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Galvez said the government aims to vaccinate all 1.7 million health workers within March as experts fear a looming surge in cases with the presence of new variants, including the South Africa variant.

Galvez said vaccination with the AstraZeneca shot may begin as soon as Friday, March 5, and will follow recommendations from the NITAG, Health Technology Assessment Council, as well as the Food and Drug Administration. –

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.