MANILA (Reuters) – The Philippines has received its first delivery of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 shots, secured through the vaccine-sharing COVAX facility, its health ministry said on Thursday.
The country hopes to get a total of 4.58 million doses of AstraZeneca shots via COVAX by May, and the newly arrived 487,200 doses are the initial shipment.
The first batch of AstraZeneca doses will add to the Southeast Asian country’s stock of 600,0000 Sinovac vaccines that China donated, and which Manila used to launch its inoculation campaign on Monday.
“With every dose that we will administer, we are inching towards a safer recovery from this pandemic,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said in a statement.
President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would lift restrictions on businesses and public transport in the capital Manila once his government has secured 20 to 40 million doses of COVID-19 shots.
The Philippines, which is battling one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, has reported more than 580,000 COVID-19 cases overall, including infections caused by the British and South African variants. It has recorded more than 12,404 deaths.
It aims this year to inoculate 70 million of its 108 million people to achieve herd immunity and reopen an economy that in 2020 saw its worst contraction on record, due largely to tight restrictions on movement in place since mid-March.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Bernadette Baum)