At least 5.6 million COVID-19 doses of two international COVID-19 vaccines are expected to arrive in the Philippines in the first quarter of the year, the chief of the country’s coronavirus task force said on Sunday, January 31.
The initial volume is part of the 9.4 million doses of the two vaccines — one developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, the other by AstraZeneca PLC — that are expected to be shipped in the first half, said Carlito Galvez, who also handles the government’s vaccine procurement.
Galvez said he has received a letter from Aurelia Nguyen, managing director of the World Health Organization-led COVAX Facility, informing the Philippine government of the shipment schedule and volume.
Review committees from the WHO, UNICEF and the Geneva-based vaccine alliance GAVI granted the country the vaccines after the Philippines demonstrated its preparedness to receive them, he said.
The country’s Food and Drug Administration has approved the emergency use of both brands.
The Philippines, with Southeast Asia’s second-biggest COVID-19 outbreak at more than half a million infections and over 10,000 deaths, aims to start immunizations in February.
The country is to initially receive 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine around the middle of the month, and 5.5 million to 9.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca brand, Galvez said.
The volumes though are “indicative since it all depends on the global supply,” he said.
The government aims to secure 148 million doses, aiming to inoculate 70 million people this year, or two-thirds of the country’s population.
The Philippines has also secured 25 million doses of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, with the first 50,000 expected to arrive in February.
On Sunday, the Department of Health reported over 2,000 new cases of coronavirus infection for the second day.
The 2,103 new infections brought the cumulative case count to 525,618, a year after the government confirmed the first case in the Philippines on January 30, 2020.
For the month of January 2021 alone, new cases reached 51,554, around 21 percent higher than the 42,434 cases in December 2020 and slightly higher than the 50,901 cases in November 2020, but lower than the 69,035 in October.
There were 80 additional mortalities on Sunday, pushing the death toll from the disease to 10,749 as of January 31.
The case fatality rate further increased to 2.05 percent.
The Health department reported a “mass recovery” of 11,653, increasing the total to 487,551 and reducing the active cases to 27,318.
Under the time-based recovery scheme, coronavirus-positive individuals without symptoms for at least 14 consecutive days are deemed to have recovered from infection.
Globally, infections have reached nearly 102.6 million as of 3 p.m. on Sunday, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. Of this number, 2.22 million had died.
Cases of infection in the Philippines peaked in August, with an average of 4,111 a day. The all-time high was 6,958 cases on August 10, 2020.