Philippines receives 400,000 more Sinovac doses from China

The second batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China to the Philippines arrived on Wednesday, March 24, consisting of 400,000 jabs from Chinese drug manufacturer Sinovac.

This is on top of the 600,000 Sinovac vaccine doses that China donated to the country on February 28, which kicked off the mass inoculation drive in the country.

Officials from the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), including Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr, received the vaccines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Duque noted the timing of the shipment, as the country grapples with an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases. Two days before the shipment, the Philippines tallied a record-high 8,019 new infections.

“The arrival of these vaccines could not have occurred at a more opportune time considering the continued rise in cases, which in turn increases the need to inoculate more high-risk individuals as soon as possible,” Duque said.

The doses also arrived amid renewed tension in the West Philippine Sea, after over 200 Chinese vessels were spotted near the Juan Felipe Reef, prompting Manila to file a diplomatic protest against China.

As early as January, critics had raised the alarm over China’s agenda in donating vaccines to the Philippines, fearing this might affect the country’s stake in the West Philippine Sea.

President Rodrigo Duterte had hailed Beijing’s donation of the vaccines, even saying in February 28 that he intends to go to China to personally thank President Xi Jinping.

Aside from the Sinovac doses, the Philippines is also expected to receive 979,200 vials of the Astrazeneca vaccine from the global vaccine sharing initiative COVAX Facility by late March or early April. – Rappler.com