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Philippines’ COVID-19 vaccination drive hit by delivery delays

A police officer receives his first dose of Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac vaccine for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during the vaccination of essential workers, at the Navotas Fish Port, in Navotas City, Metro Manila, Philippines, June 10, 2021. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

MANILA (Reuters) – A delay in COVID19 vaccine deliveries to the Philippines has forced some cities in the capital region to close vaccination sites, complicating Manila’s efforts to ramp up its immunisation drive.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday appealed for understanding, while assuring the public “we will have more supply in the coming months and everyone will be vaccinated.”

Only 4.5 million of the 7 million doses of COVID19 vaccines that were scheduled to arrive in May were delivered, Carlito Galvez, head of the government’s vaccine procurement programme, told DZMM radio on Wednesday.

The delay came just as the government opened up vaccinations to around 35 million people working outside their homes, to curb COVID19 transmission and open up the economy.

Joy Belmonte, mayor of Quezon city, said some vaccination sites in her city were being forced to close because of “erratic” supplies.

“If we are on full force, we can activate 15 sites already but given the supply we are activating only 8 vaccine sites,” Belmonte told CNN Philippines.

Quezon City is the Philippines most populous city, with 2.9 million residents, and accounts for 8% of the country’s total 1.28 million COVID19 infections.

In Marikina City, 18,000 people were awaiting the arrival of more vaccines, its mayor Marcelino Teodoro told CNN Philippines.

“The problem is no longer vaccine hesitancy (but) the steady supply of vaccines,” Teodoro said.

A shipment of 2.28 million Pfizer/Biotech vaccines secured via COVAX was set to arrive in the country on Thursday, but they will be given to senior citizens, people with existing health conditions and the poor.

Including Thursday’s vaccine delivery, the Philippines will have received a total of 12.6 million COVID19 shots, mostly from China, and through the global vaccine-sharing scheme.

As of June 7, Philippine authorities had fully vaccinated 2.3% of the 70 million people they aim to inoculate against COVID19 this year.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema; Editing by Ed Davies)

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