The Philippines expects to get its first batch of around one million COVID-19 vaccine shots in February.
This was revealed Wednesday (January 27) by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr.
Galvez said that he was negotiating with pharmaceutical firms to get 200,000 to 500,000 doses from UK’s AstraZeneca for health workers, 500,000 shot from Chinese firm Sinovac, and an unspecified number from Pfizer of the U.S.
Galvez told a media briefing of the government’s plan for an “early rollout this February”.
Several other countries have already started their respective vaccination programs.
The vaccine rollout will begin amid widespread fears among Filipinos about vaccines.
Memories of a dengue vaccine that were tied to deaths are putting people off the idea of immunisation.
Government officials acknowledge they have an uphill struggle to persuade many people to take the COVID-19 vaccines.
Department of Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said in a report that the government assures the people that the vaccines went through a strict process of testing.
Confidence in vaccines was affected by the experience with French company Sanofi’s dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
Dengvaxia was rolled out in 2016 to more than 800,000 children. It was later banned in the Philippines.
A Reuters report recalled that two congressional enquiries were made and more than 100 criminal cases that linked child deaths to the anti-dengue shot were initiated, but such links have never been proved.
Sanofi has said Dengvaxia is safe and effective. It also said that the vaccine has been approved for use by the U.S. and European Union.
The Philippines plans to inoculate 70 million adults in 2021.
An opinion poll showed fewer than a third of Filipinos were willing to get shots of the COVID-19 vaccines.
The Philippine government is working to lock in 148 million doses.
These shots will come from seven vaccine makers, on top of 40 million shots that will come from the Covax Facility, a global initiative that aims to ensure equitable access to the vaccines.
“We hope to seal deals within this month or early February,” vaccine czar Galvez said.
The Philippines has recorded 516,166 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of January 26, 2021.
The numbers include 30,357 active infections, 10,386 deaths, and 475,423 recoveries.