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Philippines administers first official COVID-19 vaccine jab

University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) director Dr. Gerardo Legaspi on Monday became the Philippines' first official recipient of a vaccine against COVID-19.

Legaspi received a shot of CoronaVac, manufactured by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech, during a symbolic vaccination ceremony at the UP-PGH grounds attended by top government officials.

The vaccine was administered by Nurse Chareluck Santos.

“Si Dr. Legaspi ang nanguna sa atin sa laban na ito kaya karapat-dapat lang na siya ang unang tumanggap ng ating bakuna,” PGH spokesperson Dr. Jonas Del Rosario said.

“Kayong dalawa ay nasa kasaysayan na ng COVID-19,” he added, referring to Legaspi and Santos.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. also received a shot of Sinovac's vaccine at the PGH.

The ceremony -- one among several symbolic vaccinations scheduled within the day -- was held in a bid to boost public confidence in the vaccination program in light of polls showing low trust in vaccines.  

Several government officials, including Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Eric Domingo and testing czar Secretary Vince Dizon also received the Sinovac shot. Dizon received his at Tala Hospital (Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium) in Caloocan City.

Under the vaccination priority list, frontline workers in health facilities should be the first to get inoculated. 

The “symbolic” vaccination followed the arrival of 600,000 Sinovac doses on Sunday afternoon. 

The first batch of vaccines will be rolled out to several hospitals in Metro Manila also on Monday, marking a turning point in the country’s battle against COVID-19.

Aside from PGH, the priority hospitals for vaccination are the Lung Center of the Philippines, Veterans Memorial Medical Center, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium (Tala Hospital), PNP General Hospital, Pasig City General Hospital, and the V. Luna Medical Center.

Only 180 of the 1,165 surveyed at the Tala Hospital expressed interest in the Sinovac vaccine. The hospital chief said a contingency plan is in place to avoid wastage. 

The Department of Health has assured health workers that the vaccine is “safe” and “beneficial” for them as it can reduce morbidity and mortality linked to COVID-19. 

Citing data from the Sinovac’s dossier, an epidemiologist also said the Chinese vaccine showed 100% efficacy against severe COVID-19

The government aims to secure 148 million doses to vaccinate 70 million Filipinos this year

Only the vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Sinovac have been approved for emergency use by the FDA.

The Philippines has recorded 576,352 infections with 534,271 recoveries and 12,318 deaths as of Sunday afternoon. — KBK/RSJ, GMA News