By Deighton Acuin

PHOTO: McGill University

The administration under President Rodrigo Duterte is “relentless” in acquiring coronavirus vaccines for the Filipino people, Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr. assured on Sunday.

Galvez addressed the perceived slow rollout of vaccines, adding the current supply is reserved for medical personnel.

“Rest assured that the Duterte administration has been relentless in acquiring these vaccines to ensure that the country will have a fair share of the doses,” Galvez said in a statement. 

“The inoculation of medical workers must be carried out in a deliberate manner. Considering the crucial task they perform, their vaccination must be done in batches in light of possible adverse effects and the impact on the manning requirements of health facilities.”

“When all our medical frontliners and health care workers are inoculated and our country already has sufficient vaccine supplies, we shall significantly pick up the pace of our vaccination program,” he added.

The vaccine czar said almost 90 percent of vaccines already deployed in the past two weeks.

“As much as we would like to conduct a full-scale vaccination program, we are, however, constrained by the current limited supply of vaccines in the world market. And this is the same problem being faced by most nations around the world,” Galvez said.

India, Russia vaccines

Galvez, meanwhile, reported he visited India to directly deal with the Serum Institute of India to secure both short and long term supply of vaccines.

Another team, according to Galvez, is expected to arrive in Russia to further conduct a study on the Sputnik V vaccine developed by Gamaleya Institute.

The official also responded to accusations the Philippines borrowed over P10 trillion for vaccination program support.

Citing Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, he said the government is working on an overall P82.5 billion budget for the inoculation program, of which P62 billion funding is sourced from development partners and the rest is financed internally.

“We have secured enough funding from abroad right now as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank approved just this week separate loans to cover the entire P62-billion component that we plan to secure overseas,” Galvez said.

“All copies of the loan and grant agreements signed by the Department of Finance are uploaded in the agency’s website and can be viewed by anyone who wishes to check their veracity,” he added. 

To date, the Philippines has 1,125,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines delivered by China-based Sinovac Biotech and British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca.

Another batch containing one million Sinovac doses is expected to arrive on March 21.

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