By Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Reporter
THE PHILIPPINES started immunizing its most vulnerable people against the coronavirus on Monday after receiving 600,000 doses of CoronaVac donated by China.
The head of the state-owned Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila was the first to get the shot made by Chinese drug maker Sinovac Biotech Ltd.
Aside from PGH Director Gerardo D. Legaspi, also vaccinated at the hospital were Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Rolando Enrique Domingo and infectious disease expert Edsel T. Salvana.
Vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said the economy would not recover and life would not return to normal if people don’t get vaccinated. Vaccination is a “moral obligation,” he told a televised news briefing before the start of the rollout.
“Let’s not wait for the so-called best vaccine,” he said in Filipino. “There is no such best vaccine because the best vaccine is the one that is effective, efficient and arrives early.”
The government would try to vaccinate all local health workers this month, Mr. Galvez said.
A hundred PGH workers were inoculated with the CoronaVac, Mr. Legaspi told an online news briefing.
Hospital spokesman Jose Jonas D. del Rosario said at the weekend only 12% of the 2,500 hospital staff who answered a poll wanted to take the CoronaVac shots.
Mr. del Rosario on Sunday said those who declined to get vaccinated with CoronaVac would still be prioritized once other vaccine brands arrive.
The vaccinations were also held at five other hospitals in Metro Manila: Lung Center of the Philippines, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center Sanitarium, Veterans Memorial Medical Center, Philippine National Police General Hospital and Victoriano Luna Medical Center.
Testing czar Vivencio B. Dizon was vaccinated at the Sanitarium.
CoronaVac is only 50.2% effective among health workers, based on trials in Turkey. It was 65.3% to 91.2% effective among patients aged 18 to 59 years, based on trials in Indonesia.
An inter-agency task force allowed the Chinese vaccine to be given to health frontliners. Presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque, Jr. earlier said CoronaVac is safe and would benefit health workers.
Sinovac’s CoronaVac is one of the frontrunners in the vaccine race, along with shots developed by British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc, Russia’s Gameleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology, and America’s Pfizer, Inc., Moderna, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson.
It is the third coronavirus vaccine approved by the country’s Food and Drug Administration for emergency use after the ones from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
The local FDA last week approved Sinovac’s vaccine for emergency use, the third drug after vaccines from Pfizer, Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc.
The arrival of 525,600 doses of vaccine made by AstraZeneca Plc, originally set for March 1, would be delayed by a week due to global supply problems, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said on Sunday.
The Department of Health (DoH) reported 2,037 cases on Monday, bringing the total to 578,381.
The death toll rose by four to 12,322, while recoveries increased by 86 to 534,351, it said in a bulletin.
There were 31,708 active cases, 89.3% of which were mild, 5% did not show symptoms, 2.5% were critical, 2.3% were severe and 0.89% were moderate.
The DoH said eight duplicates had been removed from the tally. One laboratory failed to submit data on Feb. 28.
About 8.3 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Feb. 27, according to DoH’s tracker website.
The coronavirus has sickened around 114.7 million and killed more than 2.5 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).
About 90.3 million people have recovered, it said.