Senior health workers among first to get AstraZeneca shots
MANILA, Philippines — The government started to administer AstraZeneca shots to senior health workers in hospitals in Metro Manila on Saturday, two days after more than 400,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine arrived as a donation to the country.
First to get the shot at Ospital ng Paranaque (OsPar) II was Dr. Olga Virtusio, out of the 50 medical front-liners employed by the two local government-run hospitals in the city.
“Being the head of the city health office of Parañaque City … prompted me to lead my staff and to assure the people that all the vaccines are safe,” said the 60-year-old Virtusio.
She said she earlier volunteered to be inoculated with the CoronaVac vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, but was turned down because of “my old age.”
On Friday, 50 younger front-liners of OsPar I and II were given CoronaVac, with Dr. Jefferson Pagsisihan, the director of both hospitals, taking the first shot.
Pagsisihan’s predecessor, Dr. Ephraim Neal Orteza, died of COVID-19 in April last year. He was 64.
Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr. led the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Parañaque, while Health Secretary Francisco Duque III presided over a similar event at Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City also on Saturday.
Duque himself injected the vaccine on the hospital’s senior vice president and chief medical officer, Dr. Zenaida Javier Uy.
Uy, 69, was the first to receive an AstraZeneca shot at the hospital, where 500 doses of that vaccine were turned over, apart from the initial 1,300 doses of the CoronaVac vaccine delivered earlier.
Duque, who earlier said he would be given the AstraZeneca shot, said he would try to be vaccinated “by mid-March.”
In Parañaque, Mayor Edwin Olivarez thanked the national government for the AstraZeneca doses and vowed to have all 3,800 health workers in the city inoculated, as well as the city’s estimated 500,000 residents.
Aside from receiving donated jabs, the city government recently signed an agreement with the national government and Zuellig Pharma for the storage and delivery of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine worth P250 million.
Trust in CoronaVac
At the Laging Handa briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Filipinos’ perception and trust in the vaccines, specifically Sinovac, “has changed’’ since the rollout on March 1. “We can see the per day accomplishment of each hospital.”
According to her, the turnout for CoronaVac inoculation was low during the initial rollout but improved in the succeeding days. “If we look at the second to the third to the fourth days of the vaccination, we see the increase in the number of employees or health-care workers who wanted to be vaccinated,” Vergeire said.
“Actually in our hospitals, there are those who want Sinovac, there are those who want AstraZeneca. So the doses won’t be wasted. We can give it to all of the health-care workers who are really in need at this time,” she added.
—WITH A REPORT FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.