MORE than 216,000 medical frontliners have been vaccinated against the coronavirus as of Tuesday, according to the Presidential Palace.

The inoculation of health workers had been a bit slow because vaccines could only be given to batches of 50 to 100 people, vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. told a televised news briefing on Tuesday.

He said health workers could not be vaccinated all at the same time to ensure the smooth operation of hospitals. “It should be by batches, especially in case of an adverse effect,” he said.

The Philippines started vaccinating health workers on Mar. 1 using China’s donation of 600,000 vials of CoronaVac made by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. It is also giving 525,600 doses of the vaccine made by British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc under a global initiative for equal access.

Mr. Galvez said the Philippines would take delivery of at least 1.4 million more doses of the Sinovac vaccine this month. Of the total, about 400,000 vials were again donated by Beijing, and the rest were paid for by the government.

About 900,000 more doses of AstraZeneca shots under the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access facility would arrive in late March or early April, he added.

AstraZeneca Plc on Monday said its coronavirus vaccine is safe after reports of increased risk of blood clots.

It said a review of safety data of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the European Union and United Kingdom did not show evidence of increased risk of blood clots in any age group, gender or batch in any particular country.

AstraZeneca said there were no confirmed issues related to any batch of vaccines that were used.

The Philippines this month received 525,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine under a global initiative for equal access. DoH said last week it would continue injecting people with AstraZeneca vaccines.

Denmark, Norway and Iceland on Thursday suspended the use of AstraZeneca vaccines due to blood clots in some people who got the vaccines, Reuters reported.

Mr. Galvez said the Philippines had signed a supply deal with Novavax, Inc. for about 30 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine, which is made at the Serum Institute of India.

The vaccine czar earlier went to India to negotiate the supply deal.

Mr. Galvez said the Novavax vaccines would likely arrive in the third or fourth quarter. The local Food and Drug Administration had yet to approve the vaccine for emergency use.

He said the Philippine government would focus on containing the coronavirus pandemic this year and would seek to end it by 2022.

Mr. Galvez on Sunday said about 90% of coronavirus vaccines had been deployed in various parts of the country.

Pandemic plan deputy chief enforcer Vivencio B. Dizon had said the Philippine government had failed to vaccinate at least 250,000 Filipinos daily to meet its 50-million target this year due to supply problems.

Mr. Roque on Monday said the government would start an online tracking system for its vaccination drive this week.

Senator Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel earlier asked the National Task Force on COVID-19 and Health department to create a “vaccine tracker” to promote accountability after the Philippines received $900 million in loan commitments from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank for its vaccination program. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza