PH seeks 148 million doses from 7 COVID-19 vaccine makers
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is negotiating with seven vaccine manufacturers to procure at least 148 million doses as it seeks to inoculate close to two-thirds of its population this year, according to the head of the country’s national vaccination program and chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
Speaking at the Laging Handa briefing on Wednesday, Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government was hoping to close deals with Novavax, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson of the United States, United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca, China’s Sinovac Biotech and Russia’s Gamaleya Institute.
“Based on our current negotiations, we will be able to purchase at least 148 million doses from more or less seven manufacturers. However, it will be dependent on the global supply,” he said.
“The government will have a portfolio of vaccines,” he said. “This means we will get vaccines from different manufactures. This is to ensure that we we will have vaccines for everyone, particularly this year 2021.”
Galvez said the Philippines also would receive fully subsidized doses for around 23 million Filipinos through the Covax Facility, which is aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide equitable access to all countries to safe and effective vaccines, once these are licensed and approved.
Covax is led jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the Geneva-based Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Galvez said the Philippines and Colombia would be the first two countries to take part in the solidarity trial of the WHO for COVID-19 vaccine candidates set also for this month.
He said as many as 15,000 volunteers from Metro Manila would participate in the clinical trial, which would be implemented by the Department of Science and Technology and the Philippine General Hospital.
“This is so that we can have a full evaluation of the safety and efficacy of the candidate vaccine,” he said.
The former military chief of staff did not disclose the candidate vaccines that would be used in the trial.
The Philippines had earlier targeted 80 million doses and though it has been talking with vaccine-makers for months, the country had secured only 2.6 million, from AstraZeneca, paid for by a private sector group, which will give half of the shots to their employees.
On Wednesday, AstraZeneca applied for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine in the Philippines.
Galvez said the priority recipients of the vaccines have already been designated—health-care workers, vulnerable indigent senior citizens, [residents of] poor communities, uniformed personnel, teachers and school workers, government workers, overseas Filipino workers and other essential workers.
A “whole-of-nation” approach will also be undertaken to involve local governments and the private sector in the vaccination program.
He said the local governments would help in identifying the priority vaccine recipients, while the private sector would provide technical and financial support for storage and deployment.
Even though the government- provided vaccines are going to be free, people will have to volunteer to be inoculated and local governments have to convince their constituents to have themselves inoculated.
In San Juan City, Mayor Francis Zamora said the important thing was to “increase the trust level” of residents on vaccines.
“Right now, we understand that there is still some skepticism surrounding COVID-19 vaccines because these are newly developed,” he said.
At least 4,109 of an estimated 122,000 San Juan residents had signed up for vaccination as of Tuesday afternoon, just a day after the city government announced opened the registration.
Zamora was hopeful that more of his constituents would sign up for an orderly and fast roll out of vaccines, and that the city would be able to ease the vaccination process as early as April.
He said the city would prioritize the inoculation of health workers and front-liners to be vaccinated first, followed by indigent senior citizens and other residents who registered.
The city council last year passed Ordinance No. 75 allocating P50 million for vaccine procurement.
According to Zamora, the money was “more than enough” because the national government would also be giving funds to local governments for their vaccine needs.
He said he preferred a vaccine with a high efficacy rate, made by a company that had a “good reputation” and met the standards set by local and international agencies.
—With reports from Meg Adonis and Reuters
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