PH ‘pretty high up’ on China’s priority list for vaccines
MANILA, Philippines — Barring any sudden turn of events, China-manufactured vaccines against COVID-19 will be the first to arrive in the Philippines this month, ahead of vaccines promised by the World Health Organization-led vaccine supply pool COVAX, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Tuesday.
In a briefing from Davao City, Roque said the Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech had committed 25 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines.
Those shots are apart from the 600,000 doses Sinovac has promised to donate and deliver to the Philippines on Feb. 23, Roque said.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Eric Domingo said Sinovac’s application for emergency use authority remained pending, as well as that of Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute.
No single brand
The FDA has so far given emergency permits only to the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines. AstraZeneca was issued an emergency use listing just on Monday by the WHO for a global rollout through COVAX.
The FDA has also given a compassionate use license for 10,000 doses of New Crown, the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm), for President Duterte’s military bodyguards.
Domingo said the President preferred “no single brand” to inoculate the Philippines’ 100 million population, so the agency was looking forward to applications from other pharmaceutical companies, including Moderna and Novavax of the United States.
Government officials said the delivery of 117,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for medical workers was delayed, from its “indicative date” of Feb. 15, as paperwork, particularly an indemnification agreement in case of postvaccination side effects, was still being ironed out in the Senate.
“We did not order [the 117,000 doses from] Pfizer but from COVAX. It was COVAX [that] gave us the notice to sign this indemnifaction agreement,” Roque said.
Under the COVAX scheme, he said, the manufacturers were asking the Philippine government to shoulder the indemnity through PhilHealth, “not to show whose fault [an adverse effect] it is, but to increase [vaccine] confidence.”
Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana, who was a guest in the online briefing, expressed confidence that China could deliver on time, despite having to ramp up vaccine production for its own people and other countries, including Indonesia and Brazil, and the rest of Southeast Asia.
“An advantage of the Philippines is it’s pretty high up [on China’s] priority list [of] supplying vaccines,” Sta. Romana said.
As of last week, China had vaccinated 40 million people, including Filipino doctors in the country, he said.
There was “hardly any death, the adverse events [were] very few. Basically [it has] gone smoothly,” Sta. Romana said.
He said the 25 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine were scheduled to arrive in tranches, probably at a rate of 1 million to 5 million a month, from the first half-million doses expected to be delivered in the first or second quarter of the year.
According to the Palace, the country expects 10 million to 15 million doses of the Gamaleya vaccine Sputnik V in April, 30 million doses of Novavax, and 17 million doses ordered by the private sector from AstraZeneca by May, 20 million doses of Moderna by July, 15 million doses of Pfizer by August, and 5 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by October.
National vaccination program leaders were in Davao on Tuesday to inspect the city’s vaccination program headed by the President’s daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte.
Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), which vaccination deputy chief Vivencio Dizon said in an online message would get its initial share of vaccines from the COVAX supply, is located in Davao City.
Dizon, however, did not say how many doses of Pfizer SPMC would get.
SPMC and Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu are the only hospitals outside Metro Manila on the priority list of 34 hospitals of the Department of Health (DOH) for the initial vaccine rollout.
On Tuesday, the DOH logged 1,391 additional coronavirus infections, bringing the overall number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country to 552,246.
The DOH said 45 more patients had recovered, raising the total number of COVID-19 survivors to 511,796. But the death toll rose to 11,524 with the deaths of seven more patients.
That left the country with 28,926 active cases, of which 87.1 percent were mild, 6.7 percent asymptomatic, 0.85 percent moderate, 2.6 percent severe, and 2.7 percent critical.
The DOH also reported that 40 of the 44 known cases of the more infectious UK variant of the coronavirus had recovered.
Of the UK variant cases, an 84-year-old from Benguet province, had died, the DOH reported earlier.
Dr. Alethea de Guzman, director of the DOH epidemiology bureau, said the three remaining patients were a migrant worker who had returned from the United Arab Emirates, a 20-year-old from Sabangan, Mountain Province, and a 37-year-old from Impasug-ong, Bukidnon.
—With a report from Patricia Denise M. Chiu
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