MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III recommended on Monday that all 525,600 AstraZeneca COVID-19 shots from the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility be given as first doses to protect more health workers.
In a pre-recorded meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte, Duque explained that the time interval for administering the two doses of AstraZeneca vaccines is 12 weeks or three months.
Within this time period, Duque said the Philippines can already expect a new shipment of doses still from the COVAX facility.
“According to the WHO country representative, he will write a letter to reassure us that the next batch will really come. And from there, we will use the second dose,” Duque said.
“In that light, we can use all of the AstraZeneca vaccines as first dose. So we give more. We provide partial protection to a lot more healthcare workers,” Duque said, speaking partly in Filipino.
In the same meeting, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said that nearly a million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines were expected to arrive from late March to early April.
Duque explained the advantages of using up all the AstraZeneca does currently available.
“So we can cover more healthcare workers and frontliners, and we can also resolve the problem of AstraZeneca having a short shelf life. That means, in 3 months, the vaccine will expire. So by giving it as first dose, we solve that problem as well,” Duque said.
On March 4, the country received 487,200 AstraZeneca doses and another 38,400 doses on March 7 — all from the COVAX facility, a global vaccine sharing pool.
Since starting its vaccination program on March 1, the government has so far administered 193,492 doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
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