Government sets H1 goal: Give 5-million doses of Covid vaccine

Photo shows vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a University Hospital Network (UHN) vaccination clinic in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photographer: Cole Burston / Bloomberg)

THE government is now eyeing to administer 5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine during the first half of the year.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the government set this target as part of its efforts to stop the spread Covid-19 and its more infectious variant from the United Kingdom (UK), B117, which is now spreading in more countries.

“We would like to ensure that at least 5 million vaccines can be used by our people because the new variant, which is spread faster,” Roque said in an online press briefing on Thursday. He said most of the other shipment of vaccines already secured by the government will be arriving in the second half of the year.

The government is targeting to vaccinate 50 to 70 million Filipinos this year.

Chief implementer of the government’s national policy on Covid-19 Carlito G. Galvez earlier said they are confident of achieving this after successfully securing 137 million doses of vaccines from 7 pharmaceutical companies.

He said they are anticipating the first batches of vaccines, which will arrive in the country will come from Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac, and AstraZeneca.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health (DOH) reported the first Filipino, who was infected with the B117 variant of Covid-19.

The Filipino tested positive for the B117 after traveling from the United Arab Emirates.  The variant, first detected from UK, is at least 50 percent more infectious compared to common Covid-19.

“We are not defenseless against the new variant. Regardless of which variant [of Covid-19] comes out, we only have to do what were already doing and that is wearing of [face] mask, hand washing, and physical distancing,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

Sinovac seeks EUA

Also on Thursday, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Enrique Domingo said that China’s Sinovac has applied for emergency use authorization (EUA) for its Covid-19 vaccine on January 13, 2021.

Earlier, some senators questioned the government’s entering into a deal with China’s Sinovac prior to its application of an EUA.

However, Galvez explained that there was a “term sheet” that allowed them to “lock-in” vaccine doses from the company.

On Thursday, Domingo said that of the applicants, only Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine had received the FDA’s approval for an EUA for now. Evaluation of AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals Covid-19 vaccine is ongoing.

Domingo said the EUA application for Sputnik V developed by Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology-Ministry of Health Russia was received on January 7, 2031.

The decision, according to Domingo, is set to be released within 21 calendar days “upon filling of application.”

Galvez on Wednesday reiterated that the government maintains a portfolio of vaccines which contains all the brand names and manufacturers of vaccines that are under development. From this portfolio, the government identifies the companies it will negotiate with.

“Finding ways to address this health crisis has been very challenging, not just for the Philippines but for countries all over the world. With almost 2 million deaths globally, around 10,000 of which come from our country, our efforts to lower our mortality rate has remained among our main priorities. Hence, despite the limited supply and massive global demand for the vaccines, we were able to negotiate and secure over 100 million vaccine doses at a lower price or the same price offered to the Covax facility,” he lamented.

He reiterated that only FDA-approved vaccines, whether for an EUA or for clinical trials, will be used to inoculate Filipinos.

Regardless of brand names or country origin, he said, “all vaccine candidates will undergo the same rigorous regulatory review procedures.”

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