Duterte has given his go signal to protect more medical frontliners in areas with high coronavirus transmission, instead of storing half of the available vials for the required second dose as initially planned, said his spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque.
“The president has approved the use of all 525,000 AstraZeneca vaccines donated through COVAX facility as the first dose for frontline workers,” Roque said in a televised briefing.
Duterte was earlier hesitant to approve the recommendation raised by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. during their meeting on Monday.
The chief executive said he was worried that the next shipment of AstraZeneca’s jabs — meant as second doses for medical frontline workers who were vaccinated — might not arrive on time.
Duque explained that utilizing all available shots as first doses would ensure that no vaccine would be wasted, since the jabs would expire in three months, the same time interval recommended between the first and second AstraZeneca shot.
Galvez backed Duque’s recommendation, saying the World Health Organization (WHO) had asked him to speed up the rollout of available vaccines in the country so it could deliver the next jabs.
The official also said the Philippines expects to receive at least 979,200 vials of AstraZeneca’s vaccine through the WHO-led COVAX facility on March 22 or by the first week of April.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine, the second to receive an emergency use authorization in the Philippines, is taken in two doses between a 12-week interval.
Over 240,297 local health workers have been inoculated so far as of Tuesday.
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