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DOH hopes delayed AstraZeneca vaccines to arrive before end of May

The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday expressed hope that the delayed AstraZeneca vaccines would arrive in the country by the end of May to provide second dose to persons who already got their first jabs.

In a media briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the World Health Organization (WHO) informed them of the delay in the delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines from COVAX Facility but there were no specific date for its arrival in the Philippines.

“Actually, there is a commitment from WHO that doses will be delayed but wala naman silang sinabi na it will take until end of May,” she said.

Vergeire noted that the interval between the first and second dose of AstraZeneca vaccines can be extended for 12 weeks.

“So WHO committed and hopefully, this commitment will be fulfilled at ang ating tinitingnan na 12th week ng ating nabakunahan ng AstraZeneca is end of May and also first week of June,” she said.

“Based on studies, it was mentioned and it was stated in the studies the longer the interval period between the first and second dose for his specific vaccine, mas mataas ang nagiging efficacy [the efficacy is higher],” she further explained.

Vergeire added that the government also intends to “maximize” the interval period between the two doses to ensure more efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The AstraZeneca jab is being used on senior citizens since CoronaVac, the only other vaccine currently available in the country, is only recommended for clinically healthy individuals aged 18 to 59.

Last week, the DOH said 979,200 doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine initially expected this month will arrive in the country in April or early May.

However, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on Tuesday said there would be a “slight delay” in the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX Facility due to logistical problems.

The Philippines has so far received 525,600 AstraZeneca vaccine doses from COVAX Facility, a World Health Organization-backed initiative that seeks to ensure equitable access to vaccines, especially poorer nations.

Global think tank Moody's Analytics said in a report that the Philippines' already delayed vaccination program could be left even further behind as India has pushed back shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to prioritize its own needs. —KBK, GMA News