Slow Delivery of Covid Vaccines to the Philippines Is Worrying

PASIG CITY, Philippines – National Task Force (NTF) against COVID 19 Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., has encouraged all local government units (LGUs) to prioritize the administration of the second dose especially of Sinovac vaccines within the next two weeks in order to address slippages in deliveries.

In Advisory 62 released by the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) signed by Galvez on July 4, LGUs were notified of the delays in the arrival of Sputnik V component II vaccines and the weekly delivery of Sinovac vaccines.

The advisory directed all implementing units, particularly in the National Capital Region (NCR) plus 8 — Metro Cebu, Metro Davao, Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga, and Rizal — to focus on completely vaccinating those who have received the first shot of Sinovac vaccines until the supply for the vaccine brand will become stable.

Likewise, the LGUs must immediately utilize the intended first doses of other vaccine brands such as Moderna, Pfizer, and Sputnik V.

The rest of the implementing units were asked to ensure the administration of the second shot of Sinovac vaccines in the next two weeks.

Supply of anti-Covid vaccines to the Philippines remains a huge reason why many Filipinos are not vaccinated yet.

“We are encouraging all LGUs across the country to concentrate in ensuring their constituents are fully vaccinated and they have the full protection of the vaccines. We are seeing a disparity in our national vaccination report wherein out of the 11 million jab administered, only 2.8 million were fully vaccinated. This should be addressed by our implementing units,” Galvez said on Monday, July 5.

As of July 4, a total of 11,708,029 shots have been administered nationwide to priority groups A1 (healthcare workers), A2 (senior citizens), A3 (persons with comorbidities), A4 (economic frontliners), and A5 (indigenous population).

Out of this number 8,839,124 were administered as the first dose, while only 2,868,905 were given as the second dose. Understandably, the gap included the 5,445,346 doses administered during the month of June which are mostly given for first dose of Sinovac.

In the National Capital Region, which has been identified as among the “centers of gravity” in the country in terms of COVID 19 cases, 1,214,855 individuals have been fully vaccinated, while 3,682,323 people have received their first dose.

The National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC) has so far deployed a total of 14,841,740 doses nationwide out of the 17,455,470 doses that have arrived in the country, while other doses (mostly for second dose) are now being deployed from the national warehouses to the different vaccination areas.

The NVOC has likewise noted that more than 5.7 million doses deployed to LGUs still have to be administered to their constituents which are mostly intended for the second dose.

“We have to look into this matter seriously and act on it fast because based on studies, the full protection against the new variants of COVID-19, particularly the Delta variant, can only be assured when an individual is fully vaccinated with two doses,” Galvez said.

“We also call on every Filipino, especially those who have received their first dose to come back to your respective vaccination sites for your second dose as indicated in your vaccination cards,” he said.

“Remember that this is not just for your safety and protection but for the protection of your families, co-workers, and communities. Marami pong buhay ang nakasalalay sa bawat isa sa atin,” Galvez added.

The vaccine czar also emphasized that though some individuals may not show up for their scheduled second dose due to illness and other medical conditions, they are still eligible to get their second shot on a later date.

However, he stressed the need for them to receive the second dose based on their given schedule.

Sinovac vaccine supply

According to Galvez, Sinovac Biotech has notified the Philippine government that its deliveries for July, though still in bulk, will begin to arrive within the second half of the month.

Their first delivery for the month, consisting of 2.5 million doses, might arrive on the third week. A total of 6 million doses of Sinovac vaccines are expected to arrive this July.

“With this development, we advise all LGUs who have Sinovac vaccines in their inventory to ensure that the allocation for the second dose should be used as the second dose,” Galvez said.

“Huwag po nating gamitin as first dose ang para sa second dose na Sinovac para masiguro na magkakaroon ng full protection ang ating mga kababayan na nakakuha na ng first dose,” he added.

Sinovac vaccines should be administered 28 days apart.

“We ask for the patience and understanding of the public. Though we have already secured the volume needed by the country, there are still other factors that may delay production and deliveries that cause this slippage. Humihingi po kami ng inyong pasensya at pag-unawa sa mga delays ng deliveries,” Galvez said.

“Rest assured that despite the two-week delay in the delivery of these Sinovac doses, our vaccine rollout will not be affected and will proceed nationwide, we should also understand that Sinovac also exhausted its supply for us. Last June, Sinovac delivered more than its contracted supply with a total of 6.5 million doses instead of 4.5 million doses,” he added.

The Philippine government has contracted a total of 26 million doses of Sinovac vaccines this 2021. Since March, 12 million doses have been delivered including the 1 million doses donated by China and 900,000 doses procured by the private sector and the LGU.

Vaccine donations from COVAX, US, and Japan

Meanwhile, the vaccine czar thanked the COVAX facility, and the governments of Japan and the United States for including the Philippines in the list of priority countries to receive vaccine donations.

The government of Japan has recently announced the delivery of one million doses of Astrazeneca vaccines on July 8.

The COVAX facility has also confirmed the delivery of 3,024,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) from the US government within the first half of the month. Another 2,028,000 of Astrazeneca will be coming by mid of July.

“We are very thankful to WHO COVAX, GAVI, the US, and the people of Japan for providing much-needed vaccine doses at this time when most of our procured vaccines are expected to arrive in the middle or late part of the month,” Galvez said.

“These vaccine doses will allow us to keep the momentum of our rollout and significantly accelerate our output especially with the arrival of one-shot vaccine from Johnson & Johnson,” he added.

Galvez urged LGUs to submit their respective masterlists for priority groups A2 and A3, as these sectors will be the focus for the deployment of the Janssen vaccine from the COVAX facility.

“Let us be mindful that the donated vaccines from COVAX should be administered based on the priority groups identified by the WHO-SAGE. All COVAX donated vaccines will be used strictly to inoculate A2 and A3 sector,” he said.

“The vaccines procured by the government and the private sector, as well as those donated by Japan may be used in all A2 to A5,” Galvez added.

Other vaccine deliveries expected to arrive in the first half of July include Sputnik V with 170,000 doses, Moderna with 250,800 doses, and Astrazeneca that were procured by the private sector with 1,170,000 doses.

As for the procured vaccine doses from Pfizer, the company has informed the NTF that a total of 938,340 doses will be delivered this month.

The first shipment will arrive on July 19 with 562,770 doses, while the second batch of 375,570 doses will be delivered on July 26.

“We have to maintain focus in our strategy to achieve population protection, especially the vulnerable sectors – the elderly and people with comorbidities particularly in the priority areas. Let us also focus on providing full protection to our people by not losing sight in administering the second dose of at least 5 million in this month of July,” Galvez emphasized.

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