THE PHILIPPINES will try to order 50 million coronavirus vaccine units for 25 million Filipinos next year, according to its vaccine czar.

The government is in talks with embassies in other countries for a government-to-government arrangement for vaccine supplies, Carlito Galvez, Jr., who is also the chief enforcer of the state’s anti-coronavirus efforts, told an online news briefing on Monday.

He said preparations and planning for the national vaccination program could take six months.

The “best case scenario” is having vaccines available by May to July through COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility and bilateral agreements.

The bulk of the vaccine orders is likely to arrive by the end of 2021 or early 2022, Mr. Galvez said, citing potential supply problems as rich countries try to buy much of the production.

COVAX, co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization, aims to ensure availability of COVID-19 vaccines to all countries.

Mr. Galvez said frontliners, essential workers, vulnerable and poor communities as well as areas that are the epicenter of the pandemic would be prioritized for immunization.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 2,058 coronavirus infections on Monday, bringing the total to 398,449.

The death toll rose by 108 to 7,647, while recoveries increased by 182 to 361,784, it said in a bulletin.

There were 29,018 active cases, 82.7% of which were mild, 9.4% did not show symptoms, 5% were critical and 2.8% were severe.

Rizal province reported the highest number of new cases at 103, followed by Davao City and Maguindanao at 81 each, Quezon City at 77 and Cavite at 76.

DoH said four duplicates had been removed from the tally, three of which were changed to “recovered.” Thirty-three cases previously tagged as recovered were reclassified as deaths.

Nine laboratories failed to submit their data on Nov. 8., it added.

About 35.8 million people have recovered from the coronavirus worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, the presidential palace said the government would try to finish its vaccine procurement program by early next year after Mr. Duterte approved the vaccine road map last week.

His spokesman Harry L. Roque said the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines roadmap was approved by President Rodrigo R. Duterte last Thursday.

Under the plan, the vaccine orders, shipment and storage must be finished by March, he said.

Mr. Roque said the government would try to forge bilateral vaccine arrangements with China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, India, Israel, Germany and members  of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The government may also have tripartite agreements with the US, Britain and Indonesia, he said. Multilateral agreements for pooled vaccine purchase with other ASEAN countries and the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, World Health Organization and other international groups may also be used.

Mr. Duterte last month said the government had funds to buy coronavirus vaccines, but it needed more so the entire population of more than 100 million could be inoculated.

He said he would look for more funds so all Filipinos could be vaccinated. The President said he was okay with vaccines developed either by Russia or China.

Mr. Duterte said he had spoken with outgoing Russian Ambassador Igor A. Khovaev and was told that Russia intends to set up a pharmaceutical company in the Philippines that will make the vaccines available here.

He said soldiers and the police would be among the first ones to be vaccinated, along with poor Filipinos.

Also on Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said almost 8,600 migrant Filipinos came home from the Middle East, Asia-Pacific region and Europe in the first week of November amid a pandemic that has sickened 50.8 million and killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide.

Of the total stranded workers, 6,947 came from the Middle East, 948 from the Asia-Pacific region and 693 from Europe, the agency said in a statement. This brings the total beneficiaries of the government’s repatriation program to 245,954 Filipinos as of Nov. 8 since it started in February. Of the total, 166,492 were land-based overseas Filipino workers, while the rest were seafarers.

The department also helped bring home Filipinos for various medical reasons and victims of human trafficking.

“Despite the pandemic, the DFA also successfully completed the medical repatriation of overseas Filipinos from Cuba, Brunei, Pakistan and Bahrain,” it said.

“Victims of trafficking-in-persons from Damascus, Syria were also repatriated this week through the efforts of our Philippine Embassy in Damascus.”

In its latest report, the agency said 11,400 migrant Filipinos in 82 countries and regions have been infected with the coronavirus, 3,200 of whom were being treated, 7300 have recovered and 828 died. Vann Marlo M. Villegas, Gillian M. Cortez and Charmaine A. Tadalan