At least 193,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines arrived at about 9pm yesterday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, giving the Philippines struggling vaccination program a needed boost.
This is the first time that Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have arrived in the country, and it’s the fourth shipment from COVAX, the World Health Organization said in an online statement. COVAX is an initiative that aims to provide poor and middle-income countries such as the Philippines access to COVID vaccines, most of which have been purchased by developed nations.
COVAX has given a total of 2.74 million doses to the Philippines, including the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs. It was just over the weekend when 2 million doses of AstraZeneca arrived in Pasay City, all of which were also COVAX-donated.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque said in a statement that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines will be given to the A1 to A3 categories, composed of health workers, the elderly, and those with comorbidities. They will be distributed in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao.
“We have been working hard to bring these vaccines to the country especially with the scarce global supply of COVID-19 vaccines. We thank the COVAX facility and all of our partners for making this possible,” Duque said.
The Pfizer vaccines were supposed to arrive in the country in February, but it was delayed due to the absence of an indemnity law, a requirement that caught the Duterte government off guard. Prior to their arrival, thousands of doses of CoronaVac, AstraZeneca, and Sputnik V had been administered to Filipinos.
The Duterte government has started vaccinating the A1 to A3 categories, but the pace has been slow, with only about 452,000 receiving two doses of the vaccine as of this week. The government said that it intends to vaccinate the rest of the population by August.