525,600 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines to arrive on Monday, Palace says

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The Philippines is set to receive 525,600 doses of British manufacturer AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, Malacañang said. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 27) — The Philippines is set to receive 525,600 doses of British-Swedish manufacturer Oxford-AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccines on Monday, March 1, the Palace said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement the delivery will arrive at around 12:50 p.m. via commercial flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It is the first batch out of 3.5 million up to 9 million AstraZeneca doses that will come from the COVAX facility. COVAX is a global initiative led by the World Health Organization with several participating governments, that aims to ensure equitable access of COVID-19 vaccines.

The spokesperson later clarified in an interview with CNN Philippines that the over half a million doses are not included in the 17 million AstraZeneca shots that the national government secured through tripartite agreements with the private sector and local government units.

"Iba pa ito. Ito ay galing sa COVAX facility [This is different. This is from the COVAX facility]," Roque told CNN Philippines' Newsroom Weekend.

On who will be prioritized for the AstraZeneca doses, Roque said that medical frontliners should be first in line according to the national vaccination plan. However, he also noted that the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group has yet to arrange a system for the drugs' rollout.

"Magkakaroon 'yan ng panibagong protocol na bubuuhin ng NITAG, pero sang-ayon sa national vaccine plan, syempre uunahin pa rin talaga ang mga medical frontliners," said the Palace official.

[That will have a new protocol but according to the national vaccine plan, of course, we will prioritize the medical frontliners]

Meanwhile, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the initial doses will be administered at the Philippine General Hospital and other major hospitals.

Roque thanked British Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce for his "intercession" that led to the speedy shipment of the dosages. Senator Bong Go, a close ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, said he and the President will personally welcome the arrival of the vaccines.

AstraZeneca is among the three manufacturers whose vaccines have been approved for emergency use in the country, together with US' Pfizer BioNtech and China's Sinovac. It was also granted emergency use listing by the WHO.

The vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, showed an average efficacy of 70% after receiving two required doses, AstraZeneca said in November. Food and Drug Administration chief Eric Domingo also said the efficacy rate for the first dose is at 70%, but it improves after the second dose is administered. He added that the two doses administered four to 12 weeks apart can only be received by people aged 18 and above excluding pregnant women.

The AstraZeneca shipment will come just a day after the country is expected to get its first delivery of 600,000 vaccines from Sinovac, called CoronaVac

Roque earlier said healthcare workers should also be the first to get the CoronaVac shots, but he added that they can choose not to take them after the FDA flagged the China-made vaccine due to its 50.4% efficacy rate for medical frontliners exposed to COVID-19 patients.