D. Gerardo “Gap” Legaspi, Medical Director of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) became the first Filipino to be officially inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine, as the Philippines’ national vaccination program started today, March 1, 2021.
Dr. Legaspi was inoculated with CoronaVac, the vaccine from Sinovac Biotech—a donation from the government of China. The first inoculator for the Philippines is UP-PGH nurse Sherlock Santos.
“Makasaysayan po ang araw na ito dahil sinimulan na po natin ang ating pagbabakuna,” said Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr, in a press briefing at the UP-PGH on March 1, 2021.
The Palace official said that the arrival of the Sinovac vaccine yesterday, February 28, 2021, can also be considered historical for the country. “Kahapon po makasaysayan din ang nangyari dahil dumating po ang kauna-unahang COVID-19 vaccines sa Pilipinas. Ito po ang 600,000 [doses] ng Sinovac na tinawag ng ating Presidente na ‘gesture of friendship and solidarity’ and ‘hallmark of Philippines-China friendship’,” said the Presidential Spokesperson.
Aside from Dr. Legaspi, other medical frontliners of the UP-PGH had themselves vaccinated including Director General Dr. Eric Domingo of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Edsel Salvana of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the UP-National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Ma. Dominga “Minguita” Padilla who is a Clinical Associate Professor at the UP College of Medicine.
Dr. Legaspi stressed that the Sinovac vaccine is safe and assured his fellow medical frontliners that the FDA and the Vaccine Expert Panel will not approve a vaccine for use unless it has been proven safe and effective. Meanwhile, Dr. Salvana said that it would be best for health workers to receive the vaccine that is available now to have themselves protected against COVID-19. Dr. Padilla likewise encouraged health workers to consider taking the vaccine now to avoid getting infected and go back to their normal way of life.
Meanwhile, to encourage vaccine confidence among the public, National Task Force against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. also received his first dose of the CoronaVac vaccine from Sinovac. Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairperson Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. also received the Sinovac vaccine.
Secretary Galvez said that procurement of vaccines will begin in March including one million of doses of Sinovac. The Vaccine Czar also said that they plan to finish the vaccination of all health workers nationwide this March.
The vaccine rollout that began today at the UP-PGH was followed by simultaneous rollouts in select hospitals in Metro Manila namely, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital (Tala Hospital), Lung Center of the Philippines, Veterans Memorial Medical Center, and at the Philippine National Police General Hospital.
“Magpapasalamat din ako sa ngalan po ng Presidente natin at sambayanang Pilipino sa lahat ng ating medical frontliners, kayo po ang tunay na bayani sa panahon ng COVID-19. At dahil kayo po ang ating tunay na bayani, tama lang po na kayo po ang mauna sa COVID-19 [vaccines],” said Secretary Roque.
Also present at the vaccination rollout at UP-PGH were DOH Director Ma. Paz Corrales and Manila City Mayor Franciso “Isko Moreno” Domagoso. Dr. Corrales expressed the position of the DOH that the government would need the cooperation of everyone to make the vaccination program successful for the country to heal and recover as one.
Meanwhile, Mayor Domagoso encouraged his constituents in the City of Manila and medical frontliners to get vaccinated. He also thanked the national government for choosing the UP-PGH, which is in Manila, as the launch site of the national vaccination program.
After an hour of vaccination at the UP-PGH, a total of 96 individuals have received the CoronaVac vaccine according to Dr. Legaspi. ### OPS-PCOO