Philippines expects delays in bivalent vaccine deliveries 

THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) on Tuesday said it expects a slight delay in the delivery to the Philippines of bivalent vaccines against the coronavirus. 

“We will experience slight delays,” Health officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire told a news briefing. 

DoH had said first batch of vaccines that are more effective against new variants might arrive by the end of March. 

Ms. Vergeire cited the expiration on Dec. 31 of the Philippine state of calamity related to the coronavirus pandemic, which allows the agency to make emergency vaccine purchases. 

She said they were seeking guidance from the Office of the President “if we can enter into this agreement with this immunity from liability and indemnification clauses.” 

The Philippines has secured more than a million doses of Pfizer, Inc.’s bivalent vaccines from a United Nations-backed vaccine platform. 

Ms. Vergeire said people who have received boosters would be eligible for the bivalent vaccines. 

The Omicron-targeted vaccines would be integrated into the Philippines’ vaccination program once they arrive in the country, she said.  

“Our program for the monovalent vaccines will continue,” she said. “The vulnerable will be prioritized for the bivalent jabs. So, nothing will be wasted.” 

The agency earlier said the first batch of bivalent vaccines would be given to health workers and seniors, with a four-month interval from their last shot. 

Last week, Ms. Vergeire told a Senate hearing the Philippines’ COVID-19 vaccine wastage could hit 50 million doses this month.   

As many as 60 million doses could get wasted by September unless the government takes extra efforts to administer vaccines, she said.  

More than 73.9 million people or 94.6% of the target population had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of March 9. 

The Western Pacific Region, to which the Philippines belongs, posted an 80% decline in coronavirus infections on Feb. 6 to Mar. 5 amid delays in reporting and a decline in testing output in many countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Deaths also fell by 86%, it said in its latest report. 

Globally, almost 4.5 million new cases were reported during the period, a 58% drop from the previous 28 days, it said.  Reported deaths also fell by 65%. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza