More effective COVID-19 vaccines arriving in March

MORE than a million doses of coronavirus vaccines that are more effective against new strains are set to arrive in the Philippines in three to four weeks, the Department of Health (DoH) said on Tuesday.

The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) committed to provide 1.002 million doses of Pfizer bivalent vaccines to the Philippines, Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told a virtual news briefing in Filipino.

“The vulnerable members of our population who have been vaccinated after four months will be prioritized,” she said. “Hopefully these vaccines come soon so that we can give these to our priority population right away.”

Health workers, senior citizens and seriously ill people will receive the vaccines first, she added.

Ms. Vergeire said the country’s pandemic task force is finalizing how government agencies would use the alert-level system as coronavirus cases continue to decrease.

“The task force discussed if the alert level system could just be used as a risk communication tool moving forward,” she said.

The Philippines posted 832 coronavirus cases in the past week, with a daily average of 199, DoH said in a bulletin on Monday. The average daily infection on Feb. 20 to 26 declined by 7% from a week earlier.

The Health department said more than 73 million people or 94.60% of the population have been vaccinated against the coronavirus. About 21 million people have received booster shots.

In its weekly report published on Feb. 23, the World Health Organization (WHO) said globally, almost 5.3 million new cases were reported on Jan. 23 to Feb. 19, 89% lower than in the past 28 days. More than 48,000 people died during the period, 62% lower than a month earlier. 

The Western Pacific region, which includes the Philippines, posted a more than 90% decline in coronavirus infections amid a decline in testing output, the WHO said. Deaths also fell by 77%.

As of Feb. 19, more than 757 million people have been sickened by the coronavirus virus worldwide, with 6.8 million deaths, the WHO said.

“Filipinos have found value in wearing masks and protecting themselves and their families and we should continue protecting ourselves from all illnesses, not just the coronavirus,” Ms. Vergeire said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez