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Duterte orders AstraZeneca jabs for medical frontliners in areas with high COVID-19 cases

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the use of 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca's vaccines for healthcare workers and medical frontliners in areas experiencing surge in COVID-19 infections.

In a press briefing on Friday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said this was contained in a memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

“Please be informed that the President has approved the request to utilize all on-hand COVAX donated AstraZeneca vaccine doses as first dose vaccination in order to protect a larger number of frontline healthcare workers in areas witnessing increased transmission,” Roque said, reading from the memo.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. thanked the President for his decision.

“We thank the President for giving the go signal,” he said in the same briefing, adding Duterte's order will increase the number of vaccinated healthcare workers to 825,200.

Galvez also said the next batches of vaccine doses could be distributed to highly affected areas.

Roque made the announcement a day after the Philippines recorded 5,290 new COVID-19 cases in a day.

The country's COVID-19 vaccine supply has been stuck as 1,125,600 doses from Sinovac and AstraZeneca since March 4. The Sinovac vaccines were donated by the Chinese government while AstraZeneca's were from the World Health Organization (WHO)-led COVAX Facility

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has earlier said the AstraZeneca vaccine that arrived in the country was not from the same batch that have reportedly caused blood clots in some European countries.

According to the Department of Health and the FDA, countries such as Denmark and Norway only halted their AstraZeneca rollout as a precautionary measure while they investigate the blood clot incident and reported death that followed vaccination.

Austria has also suspended a batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine after one person died, and another fell ill after receiving the shot.

The WHO said there was no reason to stop using AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine after several countries suspended the rollout over blood clot fears.

Citing findings from its vaccines advisory committee, the WHO stressed that there was no causal link established between the vaccine and clotting.

AstraZeneca'S vaccine is among the four granted emergency use authorization by the FDA, the others being Sinovac, Pfizer-BioNTech and very recently Sputnik V.

AstraZeneca has an efficacy rate of 70% after the first dose based on Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluation, a rate that increases after the second dose is administered four to 12 weeks after.

The number of active COVID-19 cases in the country is at 66,567 as of Thursday, March 18.

The country started its COVID-19 vaccination program on March 1, the last to do so in Southeast Asia.KBK, GMA News