Philippines receives COVID-19 vaccine after delays
MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines received its first batch of COVID-19 vaccine Sunday, among the last in Southeast Asia to secure the critical doses despite having the second-highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the hard-hit region.
A Chinese military transport aircraft carrying 600,000 doses of vaccine donated by China arrived in an air base in the capital in a late-afternoon event beamed live on state-run TV. President Rodrigo Duterte and top Cabinet officials welcomed the delivery of the vaccine from China-based Sinovac Biotech Ltd. in a televised ceremony that underscored their relief after weeks of delays, officials said.
“That plane is carrying hope that we can finally return to our lives and light for our very dark journey,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.
Vaccinations initially of health workers and top officials led by the health secretary were scheduled to start in six Metropolitan Manila hospitals Monday.
Aside from the donated vaccine from Sinovac Biotech, the government has separately ordered 25 million doses from the China-based company. An initial 525,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca were also scheduled to arrive Monday, Roque said.
The initial deliveries are a small fraction of at least 148 million doses the government has been negotiating to secure from Western and Asian companies to vaccinate about 70 million Filipinos for free in a massive campaign largely funded with foreign and domestic loans. The bulk of the vaccine shipments are expected to arrive later this year.
Resty Padilla, a spokesperson for a government panel dealing with the pandemic, said the vaccine could be a “game-changer” in a debilitating health crisis that has infected more than 576,000 people in the Philippines and killed at least 12,318 others. Lockdowns and...