President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday appealed to the Filipino nation to get vaccinated against COVID-19 "at the soonest possible time" to help control the spread of the disease that has claimed over 12,000 lives in the country.
Duterte made the call as he received the Philippines' second shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, this time, from AstraZeneca courtesy of the COVAX global facility.
"I would like to appeal to all our kababayans, please get vaccinated against COVID-19 and be the government partner in preventing the further spread of the disease," he said.
"I encourage you to get vaccinated at the soonest possible time. These vaccines are safe and they are the key to reopening our society," he added.
Duterte assured Filipinos that the government was working to ensure the "immediate distribution" of jabs as the country's immunization program began this week with China's Sinovac vaccines.
"We may not be out of the woods yet, but we are making progress, and the end is in sight," he said. "With your cooperation, we will overcome this pandemic and ensure the health and safety of everyone."
The Philippines aims to start inoculating the general public by late April or early May, COVID-19 vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. had said on the assumption that all health workers can be vaccinated this March.
As of Wednesday, Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles said 8,559 Filipinos have received their first dose of the Sinovac jab.
The arrival of 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines will boost the government's immunization program that is being rolled out using 600,000 initial Sinovac vaccine doses.
Some 70 million Filipinos are expected to be vaccinated against COVID-19 this year as the country hopes to put an end to the pandemic that has infected over 500,000 people in the country.