The first batch of Sinovac vaccines is scheduled to arrive in the Philippines on Sunday, February 28, announced Malacañang.
"We expect that the delivery will arrive on Sunday," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in Filipino on Thursday, February 25.
These vaccines will be the Philippines' very first batch of COVID-19 jabs. The country lags behind some of its Southeast Asian neighbors like Indonesia and Malaysia, who have kickstarted their vaccination drives.
Government officials will be physically welcoming the arrival of the much-awaited vaccines, added Roque.
A Sinovac executive, general manager Helen Yang, previously said that the first delivery involves 600,000 doses, all of which are donated. They will arrive all together in a military plane. Of this, 100,000 have been reserved for the military.
President Rodrigo Duterte had wanted to be present in the welcoming ceremony for the vaccines but his attendance is not yet confirmed.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said the delivery of the Philippines' first COVID-19 doses is a testament to the “profound friendship and partnership” between Manila and Beijing.
“It is a fine tradition between China and the Philippines to help each other in trying times. A friend in need is a friend indeed.... I hope the vaccines will help kick off Philippines’ mass inoculation campaign to curb the pandemic and allow Filipinos’ life to return to normal at the earliest,” Huang said.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr had previously said it would take "2 to 3 days" after the arrival of vaccines for the government to administer the first doses to priority Filipinos.
CoronaVac, Sinovac's vaccine, was approved for emergency use just last Monday, February 22, but government experts do not recommend its use for health workers, which had been identified as the first priority of the vaccination program.
But government experts are still in deliberations to finalize the guidelines for CoronaVac. Malacañang has said health workers can still get the Sinovac vaccine if they wanted because the Food and Drug Administration only recommends against it but does not prohibit such use.
Indonesia, Brazil, and Turkey have used CoronaVac for their health workers. – with a report from Sofia Tomacruz/Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.