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Gov’t can’t meet daily vaccine goal due to supply constraints


THE PHILIPPINE government has been unable to vaccinate at least 250,000 Filipinos daily to meet its 50-million goal this year due to supply problems, according to the country’s deputy chief enforcer of anti-coronavirus efforts.

“The target is roughly 250,000 to 300,000 a day, but it will depend on the supply that we get,” Vivencio B. Dizon, National Task Force Against COVID-19 deputy chief Implementer, told a televised news briefing in mixed English and Filipino on Wednesday.

The government could hit the daily goal once the bulk of vaccines arrive, he added.

The government had only inoculated about 36,000 people as of Mar. 7 since it started its vaccination drive this month, presidential spokesman Herminio L. Roque, Jr. said on Tuesday.

Vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. earlier said the main volume of vaccines bought from drug makers and secured under a global initiative for equal access would arrive by the third and fourth quarters.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte has said Manila was having difficulty getting more vaccine supplies, citing problems in the global supply chain. Rich countries were being prioritized by drug makers, he said.

With a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $9,471, the Philippines ranked 76th among the poorest countries last year.

But poorer nations such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Còte d’Ivoire, with a GDP per capita of  $5,028, $4,664 and $4,457, respectively, got their vaccines before the Philippines, according to the website Our World in Data.

The Chinese government earlier donated 600,000 doses of CoronaVac made by Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

The Philippines on Mar. 4 also took delivery of 487,200 vials of the vaccine developed by British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc. Almost 40,000 more doses arrived on Mar. 7.

The vaccine doses were secured under the World Health Organization (WHO)-led COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX).

A million more doses of CoronaVac are expected to arrive this month under a P700-million purchase deal with Sinovac.

Manila will take delivery of about 117,000 vials of the vaccine developed by Pfizer, Inc. under COVAX by April, Mr. Dizon said.

The first batch of Pfizer doses was due to arrive in February but was delayed after the government failed to submit documents freeing the drug maker from potential lawsuits.

Mr. Dizon said the government seeks to vaccinate about 3.5 million health workers by May. 

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 2,886 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 603,308.

The death toll rose by 17 to 12,545, while recoveries increased by 221 to 546,293, it said in a bulletin.

There were 44,470 active cases, 91.7% of which were mild, 4% did not show symptoms, 1.7% were critical, 1.7% were severe and 0.8% were moderate.

The agency said four duplicates and two cases found to be negative had been removed from the tally, while four recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Five laboratories failed to submit data on Mar. 9.

About 8.6 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Mar. 8, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 118.2 million and killed more than 2.6 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

About 93.9 million people have recovered, it said.

Meanwhile, the Health department said the P.1 coronavirus variant from Brazil had not been detected in 3,420 samples.

“We would also like to clarify that a common variant identified among our sequenced samples was of Brazilian origin (B.1.1.28) but not a variant of concern,” it added.

This came after Quezon City Mayor Maria Josefina G. Belmonte told a news briefing on Wednesday that a Brazilian variant had been detected in Quezon City.

The P.1 variant, a branch off the B.1.1.28 lineage, has mutations that affect transmissibility, according to the website of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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