The Philippines launched its national coronavirus vaccination campaign Monday amid widespread public skepticism and a struggle to procure vaccines.
Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, the director of the state-run Philippine General Hospital in Manila, received the first dose of the CoronaVac vaccine developed by China-based Sinovac Biotech Limited. The doctor's inoculation came just hours after President Rodrigo Duterte greeted the arrival of 600,000 doses of Sinovac donated by Beijing.
The Philippines is the last Southeast Asian nation to receive a COVID-19 vaccine supply. The Duterte administration is aiming to vaccinate 70 million of its citizens, but some public opinion polls have revealed a resistance among a majority of people due to uncertainty over the safety and efficacy of the CoronaVac vaccine.
But Carlito Galvez, who is leading the Philippines' vaccine procurement efforts, urged his compatriots to get the first vaccine that becomes available.
"Let's not wait for the best vaccine. There's no such thing," Galvez said in a speech at the Philippine General Hospital. "The best vaccine is the one that's safe and effective, and arrives early."
But just receiving vaccines has been an issue. An expected shipment of 525,600 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine that was due Monday has been postponed due to supply problems.
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the Pacific archipelago, sickening more than 576,000 people, including 12,318 deaths, the second-highest in the region. President Duterte has vowed to ease some of the restrictions imposed in an effort to boost the Philippine economy once more vaccines are available.