Duterte: More jabs coming but ‘don’t let the guard down yet’


The Philippines is set to sign a new agreement with US drugmaker Novavax and the Serum Institute of India (SII) on Wednesday to procure 30 million doses of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) jabs.

“We will sign tomorrow, March 10, the supply agreement with Novavax. That’s 30 million doses,” President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson, Harry Roque, said during a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday.

To initiate the process, National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTFAC) chief and vaccine czar, Carlito Galvez Jr., will fly to India on Tuesday to ink the deal.

Roque added that the government had also signed a purchase order for 1 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine from China — plus a supply agreement for 13 million doses of Moderna vaccine — and another 7 million doses of the Moderna jabs from the private sector.

Galvez said that the Philippines might receive more than 20 million doses of vaccines in April, May or June, with shipments from Sinovac, Novavax and the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility expected in June or July.

In total, the Philippines has already received 1.125 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including 600,000 doses of Sinovac donated by China.

The government launched a nationwide vaccination program on March 4, inoculating health workers in the first phase.

Meanwhile, Duterte reminded Filipinos to strictly observe health protocols on Monday, after a surge in COVID-19 infections across the Philippines.

“You have only one life to live, so please guard yourself,” he said during his weekly public address.

He blamed the surge in cases, particularly in the National Capital Region (NCR), or Metro Manila, on those who had failed to follow health protocols.

“Because of this, the public must be put on notice on the importance of observing health protocols,” he said.

“Many have died, and many got infected. Metro Manila now has the highest number of cases. What’s the reason for this? Well, those who don’t believe in social distancing, those who don’t believe in personal hygiene,” he added.

He further emphasized the importance of washing hands and wearing face masks before urging Filipinos “not to let their guard down against the coronavirus disease.”

Duterte then asked the public to trust the government, which, he said, was “doing everything” to address the current health crisis.

“Believe in your government … follow our advise and help bring down the COVID-19 cases,” Duterte said, adding that reducing the rate of infection would help the government “effectively combat” emerging COVID-19 variants.

As of Tuesday, the Department of Health (DoH) had recorded 2,668 new infections, taking the total tally to 600,428 cases and 12,528 deaths.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III reported a spike in the number of cases in region 4A or Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Central Visayas, and NCR.

“The NCR recorded a high two-week growth rate,” Duque said, adding those at “critical risk are Pasay City and Malabon City while those in the high-risk level are the cities of Navotas, Makati and San Juan.”

The health chief also assured the public that despite the rising number of infections in those areas, “the government was doing everything to ensure that hospitals can treat individuals.”

Malacañang on Monday also said that the government had ruled out re-imposing a strict lockdown in the country due to “sufficient health care capacity.”

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