The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines that arrived in the Philippines went through the Bureau of Customs’ advanced clearance process to ensure its quick release and delivery
The 600,000 Sinovac vials donated by China arrived on February 28 at Villamor Airbase, Pasay City
The delivery kick-starts the government’s vaccination program
The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines that arrived in the Philippines went through the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) advanced clearance process to ensure its swift release and delivery, the bureau said in a statement.
Donated by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd., the first batch of 600,000 vaccine vials arrived in the country on February 28 via Villamor Airbase, Pasay City. The vaccines came days after the Food and Drug Administration approved them for emergency use authorization, but recommended against their administration to health workers with high exposure to the disease.
Underguarding duties were done by the BOC’s CoVax Special Handling Taskforce composed of members of BOC-Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s (BOC-NAIA) Enforcement and Security Service and Aircraft Operations Division.
BOC last January said it created a Covax Importation Unit to ensure the smooth and speedy processing and monitoring of imported COVID-19 vaccines. All importations of COVID-19 vaccines will be included in the Mabuhay Lane—the Department of Finance’s (DOF) express lane—to allow the quick processing of tax and duty exemptions, according to the agency.
Filing fees for COVID-19 vaccine applications in the Mabuhay Lane will be waived and tax exemption applications will be processed within 24 working hours.
These measures are meant to support the government’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program, which will start with the arrival of the Sinovac vaccines.
Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo assured that BOC is ready for the influx of more vaccines in the coming days.
The Philippines is the last Southeast Asian country to receive its first batch of vaccine due to delivery delays.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the delivery of an initial 525,600 doses of British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca’s vaccine, initially scheduled for March 1, will be delayed by a week due to supply problems. These vaccines are among those that will be coming from the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility, a vaccine sharing scheme to ensure an equitable vaccine supply to poor countries.
The Philippine government also continues to negotiate supply agreements with multiple manufacturers.