The COVID-19 vaccine rollout last 1 March 2021 marked a historic event as the government began its biggest vaccination drive in scale following the receipt of 600,000 donated CoronaVac doses. On the first day of the rollout, at least 756 frontline healthcare workers from six hospitals in Metro Manila received Sinovac’s CoronaVac, with Philippine General Hospital chief Dr. Gerardo Legaspi being first to be inoculated in the country.

“We, at the Department of Health and the vaccine cluster, are grateful to the hospital directors of PGH, Tala, Lung Center, Veterans, V. Luna and PNP General Hospital for taking the lead in this inoculation. We are also thankful to the doctors, medical specialists, and health workers who served as credible exemplars to ordinary Filipinos in trusting the science of vaccines,” Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is the Chair of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, also said that the roll-out of the vaccination program will hasten the country’s recovery from the pandemic. “The government is confident of its vaccine program. Our aim is for the Philippines to be COVID-free by 2022. Sinovac is one of many vaccines in the country’s program. As the others become available, we will distribute it nationwide so that the whole country may fully recover. That is our number one priority,” he said.

The National Vaccine Operations Center reported that at least 128 vaccinees from the PGH, 85 from Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital (TALA), 20 from the Lung Center of the Philippines, 110 from the Philippine National Police General Hospital, 353 from Veterans Memorial Medical Center, and 60 from Victoriano Luna Medical Center received the CoronaVac doses on the first day of the rollout.

“Now that we have commenced our rollout, the challenge now is increasing uptake and restoring public’s confidence in vaccines. We encourage eligible individuals to seize the very first opportunity they will be presented with to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Our experts have already studied its safety and we ask you to trust the scientific process. Every frontliner, every Filipino that will be vaccinated and every dose that will be administered takes us a step closer towards a safer recovery,” Sec. Duque urged.

Meanwhile, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr, National Task Force against COVID 19 chief implementer and vaccine czar, said the government aims to complete the inoculation of all healthcare workers in March to ensure the preservation of the country’s healthcare system.

He confirmed that the Philippines is set to receive a total of 5.1 million vaccine doses in the first quarter, including the 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government which have been allocated for healthcare workers.

Galvez likewise encouraged healthcare workers to have themselves immunized with the vaccine that is currently available, as this is guaranteed to be safe and effective. “Ang lahat ng mga bakunang inaangkat natin, ‘yung 161 million doses ay safe at effective. Ang best vaccine ay ‘yung effective at efficient na dumating ng mas maaga,” he said during the pre-inoculation program at the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH).