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Metro Manila health workers to get first batch of vaccines

ALMOST 60,000 health frontliners from four major government hospitals in the capital region will be the first to get vaccinated against the coronavirus this month, according to the country’s vaccine czar.

These are the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, Lung Center of the Philippines and East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City, and Dr. Jose Natalio Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center in Caloocan City, Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., chief enforcer of the country’s anti-coronavirus efforts, told an online news briefing on Wednesday.

“It won’t take long,” he said. “We will just inspect the vaccines for two to three days after arrival,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.

The government would also prioritize health workers of other COVID-19 referral hospitals in Metro Manila, Cebu City, Davao City and Lanao Del Sur, Mr. Galvez said.

The Philippines is seeking to increase to one million doses the vaccines it will get from Pfizer, Inc. under a global initiative seeking equal access, he said. The government would officially submit the request to the World Health Organization (WHO) before Feb. 14.

Mr. Galvez earlier said that under the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access facility, the country would get 117,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines this quarter.

The country is also set to receive as many as 9.3 million doses of vaccines made by British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc. The initial delivery is expected this month, he said. The local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the emergency use of the vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,266 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 530,118. The death toll rose by 68 to 10,942, while recoveries increased by 130 to 487,721, it said in a bulletin.

There were 31,455 active cases, 88.8% of which were mild, 5.8% did not show symptoms, 2.5% were critical, 2.4% were severe, and 0.53% were moderate.

The Health department said one duplicate had been removed from the tally, while 19 recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Seven laboratories failed to submit their data on Feb. 2.

About 7.4 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of Feb. 1, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 104.4 million and killed about 2.3 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

About 76.3 million people have recovered, it said.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Genome Center is expected to test 750 virus samples to check for new strains next week after ordering importing reagents — substances used for virus analysis, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire told an online news briefing.

She earlier cited a global shortage of reagents, which delayed local genome sequencing to detect the more contagious coronavirus strain.

The Philippine Genome Center was now using a smaller machine that can only test 48 samples a week, down from 750. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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