THE Department of Health, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Educational Fund lauded the arrival of over 480,000 vaccines in the country against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) from British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca through the global Covax Facility on Thursday night.

The Philippines is among the first countries in Southeast Asia to receive the AZD1222 vaccine under the facility, which is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the WHO, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Information (CEPI), in partnership with the Unicef, the World Bank, Civil Society organizations and manufacturers.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd said that the “long days and nights of waiting” for the vaccines is over and that these will help the country’s frontline healthcare workers battling the pandemic.

“With every dose that we will administer, we are inching towards a safer recovery from this pandemic. So, let us put our trust in science, in vaccines. Together, we will rise as a nation and heal as one,” Duque added.

WHO Country Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that the vaccines, together with minimum public health standards such as masks, physical distancing, avoiding crowds, and handwashing, can help mitigate the effects of Covid-19.

“We all welcome the addition of vaccines to the available tools in the country which, when used to scale, will contribute to gradual return of day-to-day activities and economic revival in the country. The delivery of covid-19 vaccines in the Philippines is a powerful step in that direction,” Abeyasinghe added.

Unicef, who leads the procurement and delivery of the Covax vaccines, will continue to support the immunization programs of the government through planning, cold-chain and vaccine management, technical know-how and training, as well as making local communities engaged in the vaccination process.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has become a child rights crisis which we need to end as fast as possible. The longer the pandemic goes on, the more intense the impact on people, especially on children’s health, rights to education, nutrition, protection and mental health…. [The] vaccination should be part of a larger strategy to strengthen health systems for children and families in the Philippines for the long-term,” Unicef Country Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said.

After the initial delivery, the country is expected to receive about four million more doses under the facility until May, which is part of the two billion doses that Covax aims to procure for low- and middle-income countries.

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