Some Filipinos expressed skepticism over the number of doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine that the Palace said would arrive in the country this month.
Last Saturday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that the vaccine from the United Kingdom will arrive on Monday, March 1.
“We are pleased to inform you that the Philippines will receive 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines on Monday, March 1, 2021, around noontime, as part of the first round of allocated doses from the COVAX facility,” Roque said.
The first batch of Astrazeneca vaccines is part of the 44 million doses that the Philippines purchased from the COVAX facility that are expected to arrive this year and inoculate 20% of the country’s population.
“We are grateful to everyone, from our medical front-liners to our fellow Filipinos and foreign partners, who stand by us in this challenging time. Together, we will heal and recover as one nation and one people,” Roque said.
However, in a briefing the next day, Health Secretary Francsico Duque III walked back on this and announced that the delivery will not push through on March 1.
“Mayroon lang balita kasi na hindi matutuloy dahil sabi ng WHO (World Health Organization), nagkaka-problema sila sa supply. So, maaantala raw ng mga isang linggo,” Duque said an interview with state-run PTV4 on February 28.
“Kanina tumanggap kami ng komunikasyon na nagsasabi na hindi na matutuloy. Baka abutin ng isang linggo pa,” he added.
The doses were supposed to supplement the 600,000 doses of Sinovac’s vaccine which arrived as scheduled on the same day.
On Monday, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said there is No definite arrival date yet of delayed AstraZeneca vaccine.
Sounds like ‘Rent’ song
Following the announcement, the number of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine made online buzz.
They noticed that the figures resemble a lyric from the song “Seasons of Love,” a popular song of critically acclaimed US-based musical called “Rent.”
The referenced lyric or line goes: “Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes.”
One Twitter user even noted that this year would be the 25th year of the musical’s first Broadway run.
“Na-LSS ako tuloy sa ‘Seasons of Love’ because of tomorrow’s arrival of 525,600 vaccines from AstraZeneca. And very timely because this week marks 25 years of the first Broadway run of ‘Rent’ The Musical in US,” the user wrote.
The “Rent” by Jonathan Larson premiered in 1996 in New York City.
A Twitter user whose account was suddenly made private even wrote new lyrics for the song. This time, they were about the bleak vaccine situation in the country.
Market surveillance analyst John Paul Tanyag with Twitter handle @dumidyeypee managed to make screenshots of these and shared them on his account.
okay someone made the whole song from 525,600 doses haha 👏👏👏 pic.twitter.com/dpFIXkVvRO
— JP to the Moon 🌙 (@dumidyeypee) February 27, 2021
Forensic scientist Raquel Fortun, meanwhile, questioned the purpose for the AstraZeneca pronouncement.
“Why are we getting 525,600 vaccines? Wala lang? Or is someone toying with us? (thinking emoji)” Fortun said.
Some users likewise noted that number of doses seemed “specific.”
“The elephant in the room aside, pero it’s weird how specific they got with the 525, 600 number. Vaccine for rent indeed,” one Twitter user said.
“Hmm…What a coincidence again. Sinovac muna kasi eh!” another said.
Astrazeneca, Sinovac and the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech are the only vaccine brands that the Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use.
Several local government officials in Metro Manila and other parts of the country also previously inked deals with AstraZeneca for the COVID-19 vaccination of their constituents.