Philippines Rolls Out COVID-19 Vaccination Program

MANILA – The COVID-19 vaccine rollout on March 1 marked a historic event as the Philippine government began its biggest vaccination drive in scale following the receipt of 600,000 donated Sinovac doses from China.

Dr. Gerardo “Gap” Legaspi, Medical Director of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) became the first Filipino to be officially inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine.

Legaspi was inoculated with CoronaVac, the vaccine from Sinovac Biotech. The first inoculator for the Philippines is UP-PGH nurse Sherlock Santos.

“Makasaysayan po ang araw na ito dahil sinimulan na po natin ang ating pagbabakuna,” said Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr. in a press briefing at the UP-PGH.

Aside from Legaspi, other medical frontliners of the UP-PGH had themselves vaccinated including Director General Dr. Eric Domingo of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Edsel Salvana of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the UP-National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Ma. Dominga Padilla who is a Clinical Associate Professor at the UP College of Medicine.

Legaspi stressed that the Sinovac vaccine is safe and assured his fellow medical frontliners that the FDA and the Vaccine Expert Panel will not approve a vaccine for use unless it has been proven safe and effective. Meanwhile, Salvana said that it would be best for health workers to receive the vaccine that is available now to have themselves protected against COVID-19. Padilla likewise encouraged health workers to consider taking the vaccine now to avoid getting infected and go back to their normal way of life.

Meanwhile, to encourage vaccine confidence among the public, National Task Force against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. also received his first dose of the Sinovac vaccine. Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairperson Benjamin Abalos Jr. also got it.

Duterte and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian are at the tail of the Chinese military plane to view the crates of Sinovac before the offloading process at the Bulwagang Kalayaan in Villamor Air Base in Pasay City on Feb. 28. King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo

Galvez said that procurement of vaccines will begin in March including one million doses of Sinovac. The Vaccine Czar also said that they plan to finish the vaccination of all health workers nationwide this month.

A total of 756 frontline healthcare workers from six hospitals in Metro Manila received their first dose of the Sinovac vaccine on the first day of the rollout: 128 vaccinees from the PGH, 85 from Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital (Tala Hospital), 20 from the Lung Center of the Philippines, 110 from the Philippine National Police General Hospital, 353 from Veterans Memorial Medical Center and 60 from Victoriano Luna Medical Center. -  PCOO, DOH

(Article's main photo: Duterte inspects a vial of Sinovac after the ceremonial turnover at the Bulwagang Kalayaan in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City on Feb. 28. Toto Lozano/Presidential Photo)