President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendation of health officials to use all available AstraZeneca vaccine doses as initial jabs for more healthcare workers, his spokesman announced on Monday.

In a virtual presser, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea had issued a memorandum including Duterte’s order.

“Please be informed that the president has approved the request to utilize all on-hand Covax-donated AstraZeneca vaccine doses as first dose vaccination in order to protect a larger number of frontline healthcare workers in areas witnessing increased transmission,” Roque said, reading the memorandum.

The country has 525,600 AstraZeneca doses available.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is administered in two doses, up to three months apart.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. thanked Duterte for his latest directive, saying it would help increase the number of already-vaccinated health workers.

“Magiging 825,200 na po ang magiging initially protected ng ating first dose vaccine,” he said in the same Palace briefing.

Duterte earlier expressed concern about distributing all on-hand vaccines as the next shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines might not arrive on time.

The government is expecting the next batch of AstraZeneca vaccines to arrive by April. John Ezekiel J. Hirro