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PHL widens search for vaccine suppliers


The Philippines is expanding its search for vaccine supplies as the spread of infections appears to slow in Southeast Asia’s virus epicenter.

The government is set to meet with Australia’s largest drug-maker CSL Ltd. for a Covid-19 vaccine being developed by the University of Queensland, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a virtual briefing. The nation reported 1,383 new infections on Monday, the lowest since July 14.

The Philippines, which does not have its own vaccine manufacturing capacity, did not reach a commitment with Pfizer Inc. during a meeting last Friday since a law restricts the government from “pre-ordering without the products yet,” Vergeire said. The country also won’t be able to join Pfizer’s clinical trials, which are expected to finish by end-October. New infections have started declining since the Philippines returned the capital and its surrounds into a two-week lockdown in August. Total Covid cases stood at 238,727 on Monday, the highest in Southeast Asia.

Vergeire also said the government is now studying confidentiality disclosure agreement (CDA) of both clinical trials of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Moderna for their respective Covid-19 vaccine candidates.

“Once those CDAs are finalized, we can move forward to further meetings to finalize our agreement with them,” Vergeire said in an online media forum on Monday.

She said Manila did not preorder the Pfizer vaccine as this will violate Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

As for the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, she said the Philippine Embassy in Russia would coordinate with the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology to discuss the processes that Manila would put in place.

She also said the Vaccine Expert Panel of the Philippines is reviewing the technical details from Gamaleya.

Vergeire assured the public that the government is having discussions with other vaccine manufacturers and foreign countries to expand the Philippines’s list of suppliers.

“[We are holding discussions] so that our country and population could have the adequate vaccine we need. But the process is not easy,” she said, adding that developing a vaccine takes time.

“The clinical trials last up to six months before we [could] start [with] our negotiations. We want to ensure that the vaccine is safe before we give it to our population.”

Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco, Bloomberg News

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