Philippines to receive first COVID-19 vaccines, start inoculations next week
MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines will ship their first COVID-19 vaccines over the weekend so they can start their vaccination program from next week, a senior official said Thursday.
Despite the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Asia, the Philippines will be the last Southeast Asian country to receive its first vaccines.
Delivery of 600,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech's China-donated vaccines will arrive on Sunday, said Harry Roque, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte.
"It will be introduced on Monday because our compatriots are excited," he said of the vaccination program.
Among the first to be vaccinated are a hospital officer who lost both parents to the coronavirus, as well as a tricycle driver, Roque said.
The Philippines have ordered 25 million cans from Sinovac and should receive their first batch on February 23. That delayed emergency approval was only issued this week.
Sinovac aside, 10,000 doses of a vaccine developed by China's Sinopharm will soon arrive under "compassionate use" for Duterte's safety details. AstraZeneca cans will arrive in March, Roque said.
"I have to admit that if we insist on Western brands we will still be waiting for them to arrive," he added.
Duterte, who has closer ties with China and has close ties with many Western countries, previously said he wanted to source COVID-19 vaccines from China or Russia.
The vaccination program will be critical to the Philippine economy revitalizing efforts, which saw a record 9.5% slump last year due to severe and protracted lockdowns that weighed on consumer spending and caused huge job losses.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty)
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