More doses bought for PH, good for 92M
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has increased its Covid-19 vaccine orders to 178 million doses, enough for 92 million citizens, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.
The government initially planned to vaccinate more than 70 million adult Filipinos for its immunization drive and sought to procure 148 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines.
But now, the government is buying more shots, in case there would be delays, Dominguez said.
“We have negotiated for 92 million because we have read in newspapers that there have been slippage, delays in delivery. There’s delay in Europe, there’s delay in the US. So to be safe, we have, we are negotiating more, more than what we need of 70 million,” Dominguez said in a meeting with the President on Monday.
Ready to buy
Delays are expected in production, not because of any lapse on the part of the Philippines, which has the money and is ready to buy the shots, he said.
The government will buy vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Novavax, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Sinovac, he said.
Some of the vaccines need to be administered in two doses, while others are single-shot jabs.
Dominguez said the vaccines would be procured through partnerships with the local governments, partnerships with the private sector, and the multilateral approach, which includes funding from international bodies and the global procurement pool COVAX .
The Philippines is launching its vaccination program this month and expects to receive an initial 3 million doses for the rollout, according to Secretary Carlito Galvez, who handles vaccine procurement for the program.
Speaking at the same meeting with the President, Galvez said 117,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from COVAX were expected to arrive this month, while 5.5 million to 9.3 million doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine would be delivered in the first and second quarters of the year.
The first batch of vaccines will be given in the first quarter to 1.7 million to 2 million health-care workers, who are the most vulnerable and must be protected to keep the country’s health service from collapsing, Galvez said.
Also intended to be vaccinated in the first quarter are vulnerable groups and government front-line workers, such as vaccinators, police, and soldiers.
To be vaccinated in the second quarter are the indigent population and workers in food production and public transportation whose protection will keep the economy going and increase consumer confidence, Galvez said.
The full rollout of the vaccination program will be in the third quarter, when the priority essential workers, priority geographic areas, and poor communities will be inoculated, he said.
The remaining population will be vaccinated in the fourth quarter when the government expects to complete the immunization of 50 million to 70 million Filipinos, Galvez added.
But the government is also negotiating with the manufacturers for earlier delivery of vaccines so that the program can be fully rolled out in the second quarter, he said.
Galvez also said he had signed five term sheets with vaccine manufacturers and locked in 106 million to 108 million doses.
He expects to conclude the supply agreements and make the contracts final by mid-February, he said.
The Department of Health (DOH) is meeting with representatives of Pfizer and AstraZeneca this week to determine the actual storage requirements and shelf life of their vaccines.
The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are the first to receive emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
But Ariel Valencia of the DOH cold chain and logistics management group on Tuesday gave an assurance that the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) has enough storage capacity to handle at least the first batch of vaccines from COVAX arriving this month.
Valencia said RITM had five ultralow freezers, each of which could store 48,000 vials.
Each vial usually contains about five doses, he said.
The DOH is bidding out a P1 billion contract for a third-party service provider for the national vaccination program.
Valencia said several companies had submitted bids and these were now with the DOH bids and awards committee.
Local officials have raised concerns about storing and transporting vaccines from Metro Manila to the provinces and the islands.
Isabela Gov. Rodolfo Albano III said at a meeting of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines on Tuesday that his province not only could not afford the more expensive brands of vaccine, but also ultralow temperature freezers. These equipment are needed to store vaccines in places with high temperatures, like Isabela.
Valencia said most local governments already have freezers, but only for vaccines that required storage in 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.
“The [problem is storing vaccines that require negative 70 to negative 80 degrees] Celsius,” he said.
Several cities in Metro Manila and Laguna province, he said, have tapped private companies for vaccine storage.
The Philippines has seen a spike in coronavirus infections in recent weeks.
On Monday, the DOH reported 1,583 new infections, bringing the overall number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country to 528,853.
The DOH said 49 more patients had recovered, raising the total number of Covid-19 survivors to 487,611. But the death toll rose to 10,874 with the deaths of 67 more patients.
The deaths and recoveries left the country with 30,368 active cases, of which 89 percent were mild, 5.3 percent asymptomatic, 0.54 percent moderate, 2.5 percent severe, and 2.7 percent critical. —WITH A REPORT FROM PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU
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