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Philippines aims to finish health workers’ vaccination in May, start on other sectors in April

The Philippine government targets to finish vaccinating healthcare workers against COVID-19 in May and expand the program to other sectors by April, an official said Sunday.

According to vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the government is now moving to expedite the vaccination of healthcare workers with the current supply of 1.1 million doses of Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines.

"Ang expected natin ngayong May, pipilitin nating matapos 'yung ating lahat ng mga hospital and then by April magsisimula na po tayo sa ibang sector, he said in an interview on state-run PTV4.

Galvez made the remarks after receiving on behalf of the government the additional AstraZeneca doses from the World Health Organization's (WHO) COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility.

At present, the Philippines now has 1.1 million doses allocated to healthcare workers. This includes 525,600 from the COVAX, and 600,000 doses donated by the Chinese government.

Malacanang in February released the list of specific priority groups for the vaccination program: frontline healthcare workers would go first, followed by senior citizens aged 60 and above, persons with comorbidities, frontline personnel in essential sectors, and the indigent population.

For the coming week, Galvez said, the government will deploy 240,720 doses in priority areas. It has already deployed 54,500 AstraZeneca doses so far, and 317,250 doses of the Sinovac.

The Philippines is the last country in the ASEAN region to start its vaccination program against COVID-19 after the country's first legal vaccines were injected into health workers last week.

Some members of the military were vaccinated last year, specifically the Presidential Security Group, as confirmed by President Rodrigo Duterte himself. The Bureau of Customs (BOC) has maintained that such shipments were absent of the EUA (emergency use authorization) and were therefore smuggled. — Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/BM, GMA News