Philippines to receive first vaccine doses from COVAX

The Philippines is set to receive its first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine from the Gavi vaccine alliance COVAX facility within the first quarter of 2021, Duterte government pandemic officials confirmed on Wednesday night, January 20. 

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III made the announcement in a joint statement, saying the Philippines received confirmation it would be among the countries included in the COVAX distribution of vaccines for an early rollout. 

“The Philippines today received the country’s confirmation of participation in the COVID-19 vaccine financing instrument, COVAX Facility - Advance Market Commitment (AMC),” the officials said. “With the country’s participation in the COVAX Facility, the country is set to receive vaccines in the first quarter of this year.” 

The decision came after Galvez said the government would submit an appeal to COVAX to have the Philippines included among countries that will be given a share of doses for possible delivery eyed in February. 

Which vaccine will arrive?

Galvez and Duque’s announcement did not make mention of a specific vaccine, though the officials earlier said COVAX had identified Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine would be supplied for the intended early rollout in low income countries. 

Aside from this, it was not yet known exactly how many vaccine doses the Philippines will receive from COVAX and when in the first quarter of 2021 these would arrive. 

Pfizer is so far the only company to have secured emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration – a requirement that would allow its vaccine to be used on wider populations outside Phase 3 clinical trials. 

Among the first to receive vaccines will be frontline health workers in hospitals.

Preparations underway

On Wednesday, Duque and Galvez inspected public and private cold chain facilities to be used for the Duterte government’s COVID-10 vaccine program scheduled to start in February

“All of these preparations that we are undertaking are aimed at ensuring that the country is ready to receive, store, and mobilize the COVID-19 vaccines that will come from the COVAX Facility,” Duque said. 

The Department of Health, along with private sector partners, local governments, and other national agencies, were in the thick of preparations for the mass immunization campaign, conducting simulation exercises which aim to rehearse the government’s plan to store, deliver, and distribute vaccines across the country. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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