By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter
THE PHILIPPINES will take delivery of at least 5.6 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer, Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc this quarter under a global initiative that ensures equal distribution, according to the country’s vaccine czar.
The country will get 117,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccines in the middle of February, Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said in a statement on Sunday, citing a letter from Aurelia Nguyen, managing director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Vaccine Global Access facility.
He also said the government would receive 5.5 million to 9.3 million doses from AstraZeneca in the first half. Mr. Galvez said the doses reflect the supply for the first two quarters as the drug maker awaits emergency use listing by the WHO.
“The arrival of these COVAX vaccines is a welcome development as we await the vaccines that we have negotiated, which are expected to be delivered in the succeeding second, third, and fourth quarters of this year,” he added.
The local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the emergency use of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines.
Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and India’s Bharat Biotech also have pending applications.
Mr. Galvez said the vaccine would be first given to health workers, medical-related personnel and other frontliners. The government targets to get 148 million doses of vaccines this year for 70 million Filipinos.
The Department of Health (DoH) reported 2,103 coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 525,618. The death toll rose by 80 to 10,749 while recoveries increased by 11,653 to 487,551, it said in a bulletin.
There were 27,318 active cases, 87.7% of which were mild, 5.5% did not show symptoms, 3.3% were critical, 2.8% were severe and 0.6% were moderate. About 7.3 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Jan. 29, according to DoH’s tracker website.
Meanwhile, 48 people who had close contact with patients positive for a new coronavirus strain have tested negative for the more contagious variant, DoH said, easing worries about further infections.
The Philippine Genome Center (PGC) tested only 48 samples under the fourth batch of gene sequencing because it had run out of reagents, the substance it uses for chemical analysis, the Department of Health said in a statement at the weekend.
“The PGC is also set to sequence another 48 samples this coming week, including samples from the Cordillera Administrative Region and other targeted areas, while waiting for the kits and reagents for genomic sequencing,” it added.
Of the 48 samples tested, 23 came from Metro Manila, mostly from Quezon City; 19 from the Calabarzon region, mostly from Laguna; four from the Cordillera region; and two returning migrant Filipinos, DOH said.
Seven of the patients have recovered, and the rest were either mild cases or did not show symptoms, it added.
There were 17 cases in the Philippines of the new strain first detected in the United Kingdom.
The coronavirus has sickened more than 103.2 million and killed about 2.2 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization. About 74.8 million people have recovered, it said.