By Amado Inigo
MANILA — In what could be an effort for the Philippines to forget about its unwarranted maritime posturings on Julian Felipe Reef, China sent in Wednesday the second batch of much-needed COVID-19 jabs for priority front-liners.
To be exact, China dispatched an additional 400,000 doses of CoronaVac, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech.
It may be recalled that only a few days ago, China deployed more than 200 militia-manned fishing vessels at Julian Felipe Reef, which is in violation of Philippine sovereignty.
The Sinovac shipment arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Wednesday morning, in addition to the initial 600,000 doses received by top officials led by President Duterte last February 28.
The Department of Health and the National Task Force against COVID-19 said the additional CoronaVac doses is crucial in the Duterte administration’s vaccination program amid rising cases of the virus.
“The arrival of these vaccines could not have occurred at a more opportune time considering the continued rise in cases, which in turn increases the need to inoculate more high-risk individuals as soon as possible,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in a prepared statement.
For his part, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian said he hopes the additional shipment “will contribute to speed up the mass vaccination in the country so that we will win over the war against the virus and recover the economy.”
PH’s vaccination program actually started on March 1 with the first batch of doses donated by China and the initial 526,000 AstraZeneca doses acquired through the COVAX Facility.
At this time, only frontline healthcare workers are tops of the list to get vaccinated although there are recorded incidents of breach by local officials who have jumped into the vaccination line including mayors, and lawmakers.
Of this writing, some 336,656 Filipinos have already been vaccinated against COVID-19 but PH is expected to receive one million CoronaVac doses with its first official purchase by the end of the month of March.
An additional 979,200 doses of AstraZeneca jabs are also seen to arrive in the country by end-March.
The Duterte administration aims to inoculate between 50 and 70 million Filipinos this year alone. (AI|MTVN)