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Manila (UPDATE) - The Philippines could begin vaccinating its citizens against COVID-19 around March or April next year, Health Secretary Francisco Duke III said Monday.
"We have analyzed some scenarios under the guidance of Sec. (Carlito Jr.) Galveza and I think the best scenario is the end of the first quarter of 2021 or the beginning of the second quarter of next year," he told ANC Headstart when asked when vaccination could begin.
"Many factors will need to be considered in order to more accurately schedule the distribution, deployment and vaccination of our employees within our priority list," he said.
Duque said the government is considering creating a portfolio of different vaccines, depending on the availability and assessment of the expert group.
He said the list includes specialists from Sinovac, Gamaleya, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Johnson & Johnson. The vaccines from these companies "require much less complex and slightly higher cold storage temperatures.
Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine requires storage at 70 degrees Celsius, which is not currently available in the Philippines, Duke said. However, he said he heard from Galvez that the company "may be willing to provide" storage to ensure that the vaccine is effective.
Then distribution will depend on the requirements of each vaccine to be deployed, Duque said. Since the country has been vaccinating for decades, it will be a "piggybank" on existing systems,
"We have to empower ourselves because never in history (at a time when we had to vaccinate) have there been so many people - between 60 and 70 million. It's going to take time,"
The government will also need to train more people to be vaccinated on a larger scale, he said.
He added that some £13.2 billion had been allocated to peripheral vaccination costs such as syringes and waste disposal.
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Duke also pledged, as one of the first to receive the vaccine, to encourage the public to receive the vaccine as well. He said he would also invite other cabinet officials to do the same.