The US embassy in Manila and the European Union (EU) ambassador to the Philippines welcomed the arrival of AstraZeneca vaccines to the Philippines, after delays that cast doubt over COVAX’s priority in distributing Covid-19 vaccines.

After the delays, the first batch of 487,200 doses of the vaccine produced by the Swedish-British drug maker arrived in the country on March 6. EU and the US are the largest contributors to COVAX.

The US Embassy in Manila said it has initially donated PHP97.2 billion ($2 billion) to COVAX “to ensure the Philippines and other countries receive COVID-19 vaccines.”

“The United States is proud to be the largest contributor to COVAX and we welcome the successful arrival of the first tranche of AstraZeneca vaccines in the Philippines. As we fight the pandemic together, the United States will continue to support the Philippines’ vaccination and COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” US Chargé d’Affaires John Law said in a statement.

In February, the US pledged to donate a total of PHP194.4 billion ($4 billion) to the COVAX facility to help the world’s most vulnerable and at-risk populations in getting COVID-19 vaccines.

EU Ambassador Luc Véron, on the other hand, said the Philippines will receive vaccines for 22 million Filipinos under the COVAX facility.

Team Europe, consisting of the EU and its member states with the European Investment Bank, said it has to date provided PHP130 billion (€2.2 billion) to COVAX.

“The EU has both a responsibility and interest to make vaccines available to all. The European Union has maintained its goal to work in solidarity for vaccine cooperation and multi-lateralism — none is safe until everyone is safe,” Véron said.

According to Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the National Task Force against Covid-19, the government will start distributing the AstraZeneca immediately in a Teleradyo interview.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. in a pre-recorded briefing with President Duterte on March 8 said the Philippines expects to get more than 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the second quarter of 2021.

Although he did not specify the number of doses for each brand, Galvez said these 20 million doses would come from AstraZeneca and also from Sinovac BioTech and Novovax.

The Philippine government and the private sector signed an agreement to buy those doses with AstraZeneca in November 2020.