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Officials await as Chinese COVID-19 vaccines unloaded in Pasay

Philippine officials are now awaiting the unloading of the COVID-19 vaccines from China, an initial 600,000 doses which arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Sunday afternoon.

Among the officials present is Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. who also serves as the voice inter-agency task force for the management of emerging infectious diseases (IATF-EID).

"Magkakaroon po tayo ng inspekyson na malapitan dito sa bakuna bago tayo magkaroon ng pormal na seremonya," Roque said in an interview aired online by state-run PTV.

Also awaiting the delivery of the vaccines at the airbase are vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

Also expected to welcome the shipment is President Rodrigo Duterte. As of 4:40 p.m., PTV reported that a chopper has been sent to fetch him from Malacanang and bring him to the airbase.

The shipment arrived on a Chinese Y-20 Transporter aircraft a little past 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, with the first shots scheduled to be inoculated in several hospitals across Metro Manila on Monday.

The initial batch of 600,000 doses was initially expected to arrive on February 23, but was pushed back due to the lack of an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which was only released February 22.

Sinovac is the third vaccine to secure an EUA from the FDA after AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech, but the regulator does not recommend the vaccine for health workers due to its lower efficacy rate of 50.4% in the sector.

The FDA said it is best for healthy individuals aged 18 to 59, but has since clarified that despite its recommendation, those who wish to avail of the vaccine may do so.

The government has allocated P82.5 billion for its state vaccination program: P70 billion from loans, P10 billion from the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, and P2.5 billion from the 2021 Department of Health (DOH) budget. — BM, GMA News