AMID criticism that the Philippines was trailing its neighbors in obtaining Covid-19 vaccines, the government is targeting to complete in January the procurement of the vaccines for the first tranche of its nationwide inoculation drive.
In an online press briefing on Wednesday, Chief implementer of the government’s national policy on Covid-19 Carlito G. Galvez said they have nearly completed their talks with six drug makers for the purchase of the vaccines.
“We are now [in] advanced stages of negotiations with Novavax, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac and Gamaleya. We hope to close the deal with these companies this month,” Galvez said.
He disclosed they are aiming to purchase 148 million doses of vaccines from the six manufacturers.
This number is expected to benefit 50 to 70 million people, since it may take at least two doses for a person to be inoculated from Covid-19.
Galvez, however, admitted the number of vaccines they will be able to purchase may be lower than their goal due to the existing shortage in the international supply of Covid-19 vaccines.
“We have seen in the US and Europe, they promised [to their citizens] 20 million [vaccines] will be rolled out. But now we only see 3 million because of the supply chain and other different challenges,” Galvez said.
Among the six manufacturers, only Pfizer has a pending application for an emergency use application (EUA), according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director general Eric Domingo.
An EUA is necessary before a Covid-19 vaccine can be used locally until it can officially be registered by FDA.
Due to the high demand for the vaccines from Pfizer, Galvez candidly said the government may not be able to get doses of it until the third or fourth quarter of the year.
Domingo said the evaluation of the application will be brief since it already secure an EUA from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Switzerland, Singapore and was included in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergency Listing.
He said FDA may be able to come out with the decision on the EUA application of Pfizer by January 14, 2021.
WHO recognized the ongoing efforts of the government to prepare for its Covid-19 vaccination drive, which is expected to start within the first half of the year.
“Based from what we observe, Philippines is on track in terms of its preparation for the vaccines introduction and for the vaccines rollout including the distribution of the vaccines across the country,” WHO country coordinator Socorro B. Zarate-Escalante said.
She, however, said this may be derailed by the “public demands and pressure.”
“So what I’m trying to say here is while the government is ensuring that the deployment of the vaccine will be systematic and organized, the public would need to support that organization and systematic distribution of the vaccine so it will not be derailed and we will be able to rollout the vaccines in a proper way,” Escalante said.