THIS SCANNING electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. SARS-CoV-2, also known as 2019-nCoV, is the virus that causes COVID-19. — NIAID-RML

THE PHILIPPINES’ first batch of bivalent coronavirus vaccines arrived at the weekend, which the country plans to use on health workers and senior citizens.

The Department of Health (DoH) received more than 390,000 doses of bivalent vaccines donated by the Lithuanian government on Saturday night, it said in a statement at the weekend.

It started negotiations to get supplies of bivalent vaccines as early as August 2022.

“Offered by the Lithuanian government in January this year, the donated bivalent vaccines will help boost the Philippines’ COVID-19 response by providing protection against the original COVID-19 strain, SARS-CoV-2 and Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5,” the agency said.

It said it is also in talks with the World Health Organization’s COVAX Facility “with regard to getting additional doses of bivalent vaccines for the public.”

On March 31, DoH issued a memo on the management and administration of donated bivalent vaccines, prioritizing health workers, senior citizens, people who are seriously ill and those whose immune system is compromised.

Under the memo, a person may be vaccinated with a bivalent vaccine after at least four to six months after their last booster vaccine.

The delivery of bivalent vaccines to the Philippines has faced several delays after a state of calamity declaration due to COVID-19, which set  guidelines on indemnification and immunity from liability required by vaccine makers, expired on Dec. 31.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who took office in June last year, has yet to appoint a Health secretary. —  Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza