PH officials meet with Pfizer, Russian Embassy on vaccine prospects
MANILA, Philippines — Government officials met separately with American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and with the Russian Embassy on Friday to discuss what the arrangements would be made for the Philippines once a vaccine against the new coronavirus becomes available.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire declined to disclose other details of the meeting with Pfizer but said this was part of negotiations with various manufacturers to ensure that the country can “provide appropriate and adequate vaccines for the population.”
Besides the Department of Health (DOH), the Office of the President and the Department of Foreign Affairs also participated in the meeting with Pfizer, hours after the company announced that efficacy data on its candidate vaccine—or the potential efficiency of a drug under testing—may become available by October.
The DOH also said it discussed with the Russian embassy the Sputnik V potential vaccine. Details of the meetings with the Russian Embassy and with Pfizer will be disclosed on Monday, Vergeire said.
No new strain
She said “Pfizer can offer us this much and the Russian government can offer us this certain percentage of those vaccines, and the other manufacturers can offer us [more supply], it may help increase the number of people whom we can give this COVID-19 vaccine.”
The DOH also criticized as “irresponsible” those behind the claim going around that the novel coronavirus circulating in the country has mutated into a “more dangerous” strain targeting young adults.
While it is true that people ages 20 to 49 are the most affected group, it doesn’t mean that there is a new strain targeting them, Vergeire said.
“It’s because they are usually the ones going out of their houses to go to work and to do their errands,” she said.
“There is no new strain of the virus in the Philippines. It is very dangerous and irresponsible to say that we now have a different strain here in the country,” she added.
Vergeire said cases were expected to rise because “increased economic activities entails increased mobility among our population, which in turn increases the chances of being infected.”
DOH data show that as of Thursday, the 20 to 49 age group accounts for 58 percent of the total cases or 132,693 cases.
Virus case update
The elderly, however, remained the most vulnerable from dying from COVID-19. Of the 3,688 deaths, 2,211 were among those 60 and above.
“We remind the public to always use evidence-based and science-based information …. Misinformation adds to the anxieties and fears of our people. Let us all be responsible,” Vergeire said.
Just two days after it saw less than 3,000 new cases, the DOH recorded on Friday 3,714 new infections, bringing the current national tally to 232,072.
Of the new cases submitted by 93 out of the 113 accredited laboratories, 3,259 fell ill between Aug. 22 and Sept. 4, while 380 got sick between Aug. 1 and Aug. 21.
Metro Manila remained to have the highest number of cases at 1,797, followed by Negros Occidental (390), Batangas (248), Laguna (247) and Cavite (150).
There are currently 67,786 active cases, of which 90.7 percent are mild, 6.9 percent asymptomatic, 0.9 percent severe and 1.4 percent critical.
A total 160,549 patients have recovered from COVID-19 with the addition of 1,088 patients. The death toll, however, rose to 3,737 as 49 patients succumbed to the severe respiratory disease.
Of the newly reported deaths, five died this month, 35 in August, four in July, three in June and two in May. Thirty-one of the fatalities were from Metro Manila, seven from Central Visayas, three from Central Luzon, three from Calabarzon, and one each from Western Visayas, Zamboanga, Northern Mindanao, Davao and Mimaropa.
For the DOH to say that cases are actually decreasing, Vergeire said that they would have to see this reflected in the country’s seven-day moving average.
“There are many factors why cases increase or decrease. One of [these] is reporting. Are all the laboratories submitting data? We must look into this to determine if this is an artificial decrease because of reporting or if there is really a reduction of cases. So we wait for the seven-day moving average so we can gauge and analyze,” she said.
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