Second dose to get priority in AstraZeneca vaccinations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 11) – The government is changing course and says it will distribute the over 2 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that arrived this week, giving it first those who already had their first shot.

"In view of the resumption of AstraZeneca vaccination and arrival of 2,030,400 AstraZeneca doses, priority will be given to those who will be receiving the second dose," said the Department of Health in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

It added that the remaining doses will be used as a first dose to all eligible patients from priority groups A1 to A3, which are healthcare workers, senior citizens and people with comorbidities.

The statement comes after Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a briefing that the shipment will be solely used as first dose since 1.5 million of them will be expiring in June and the rest in July.

She assured that the vaccines sent by COVAX are not substandard since all available COVID-19 vaccines have a maximum shelf life of six months. The business transaction and transportation of the shipment should also be considered, she said.

Meanwhile, the 193,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines that were also donated by COVAX on Sunday will be distributed to parts of Metro Manila, Quirino, Cebu City, and Davao City that have ultra-low temperature freezers.

Pfizer's vaccine needs to be stored in ultra-cold freezers with temperatures of about minus 70 degrees Celsius or below, which are not yet widely available nationwide. Adhering to the temperature requirements during storage and distribution is crucial in ensuring the vaccines' efficacy.

UNICEF Philippines’ Deputy Representative for Programmes Behzad Noubary said this batch of Pfizer vaccines have different expiration dates so they need to work closely with the DOH and the WHO to ensure that the doses will be used up before they expire.