A MILLION more doses of CoronaVac from China arrived in Manila on Sunday, in a boost to the government’s vaccination drive.

The vaccines would be given out in areas experiencing a fresh surge in coronavirus infections including Metro Manila, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, Butuan and provinces in Western Visayas, vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. told reporters on Sunday.

This brought the total CoronaVac doses made by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. that have arrived to 6.5 million, including a million doses donated by the Chinese government, the task force tweeted.

Sunday’s shipment is the first shipment of CoronaVac shots that arrived in the country after the World Health Organization (WHO) included the vaccine in its list of drugs approved for emergency use.

The WHO validated CoronaVac for emergency use after reviewing the latest clinical data on the vaccine’s safety as well as the company’s manufacturing practice.

It said the vaccine prevented symptomatic disease in 51% of those vaccinated and prevented severe COVID-19 and hospitalization in 100% of the studied population.

A WHO emergency listing allows CoronaVac to be distributed under a global initiative for equal access.

China has approved the emergency use of CoronaVac by people aged three to 17 years, Reuters reported at the weekend, citing Sinovac chairman Yin Weidong.

China had given out more than 720 million doses of vaccines to people aged 18 and above as of June 3.

Preliminary results from Phase I and II clinical trials showed the vaccine could trigger immune response in three to 17 year-old participants, and most adverse reactions were mild, Reuters said.

The presidential palace earlier said the WHO approval would boost vaccine confidence in the Philippines.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 7,228 coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 1.27 million.

The death toll rose by 166 to 21,898, while recoveries increased by 7,372 to 1.19 million, it said in a bulletin.

There were 59,337 active cases, 1.3% of which were critical, 93.5% were mild, 2.4% did not show symptoms, 1.7% were severe and 1.15% were moderate.

It said 23 duplicates had been removed from the tally, 18 of which were tagged as recoveries. A total of 109 recoveries were reclassified as deaths. Three laboratories failed to submit data on June 4, the agency said.

About 12.8 million Filipinos have been tested for the coronavirus as of June 4, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 173.7 million and killed 3.7 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization.

About 156.6 million people have recovered, it said. The government is expected to take delivery of about 10 million vaccine doses from different brands this month. 

Last week, it took delivery of about 50,000 more doses of Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines from Russia on Sunday night, bringing the total to 80,000 shots.

The palace earlier said about 1.3 million doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer, Inc. and 900,000 doses of the shot made by AstraZeneca Plc would arrive by the second week of June.

The government is expecting about 200,000 doses of the vaccine made by Moderna, Inc.

About 5.38 million vaccines have been given out as of June 2. About 1.29 million people have completed their doses.

Meanwhile, foreign retirees with a special resident retiree’s visa may now enter the Philippines without an entry exemption document, according to the Immigration bureau. In a statement on Sunday, Immigration Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said the new rule is pursuant to an inter-agency task force order as recommended by the Tourism department.

He said those holding tourist visas must first get an entry exemption document from the Philippines’ foreign service posts overseas before they can enter the country.

A special resident retiree’s visa is given to foreign nationals who would like to make the Philippines their second home or investment destination, according to the Philippine Retirement Authority’s website.

The body is attached to the Department of Tourism and is in-charge of issuing such visas.

Immigration Port Operations Division chief Carlos B. Capulong said passengers arriving in the country must still present their 10-day quarantine hotel or facility booking, or a seven-day booking for those who have been fully vaccinated.

He added that passengers coming from seven countries with travel bans — India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Oman and the United Arab Emirates — are barred from entering the Philippines until June 15. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Bianca Angelica D. Añago