The Philippines can expect to receive 44 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines this year allocated by the Covax Facility, with up to 9.2 million doses arriving in the first half, a World Health Organization official said Thursday.
The deliveries will start once the Philippine government fulfills the necessary arrangements needed by the Covax Facility to ensure smooth vaccine rollout and other requirements of manufacturers Pfizer BioNTech and AstraZeneca, said Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO representative to the Philippines.
“When all of those requirements are met and we believe that the Philippines is on track to do that, we are looking potentially at a maximum of 9.2 million doses coming through the Covax facility by March or April of this year. We are optimistic that the remainder of the 44 million doses will come later on in the year,” Abeyasinghe said, adding that the Philippines will have access to up to 9.2 million AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in South Korea if it can maintain its targeted manufacturing capacity.
“The goal of Covax is to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world to minimize the impact of the pandemic, to save lives, and to facilitate quick economic recovery,” Abeyasinghe said.
The Covax program, led by WHO and the Gavi vaccine alliance, on Wednesday published its first distribution list for 337.2 million doses, with the Philippines among the top 10 recipients of COVID-19 vaccines.
Some 145 countries are set to receive enough doses to immunize 3.3 percent of their collective population by mid-2021, Covax said.
A statement said the initial distribution was in line with a target “to protect the most vulnerable groups such as health care workers” in the first half of the year.
Countries will receive doses in proportion to population size, with the most going to India (97.2 million), Pakistan (17.2 million), Nigeria (16 million), Indonesia (13.7 million), Bangladesh (12.8 million) and Brazil (10.6 million).
Other big recipients are Ethiopia (8.9 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo (6.9 million), Mexico (6.5 million), the Philippines (5.6 million) and Egypt (5.1 million).
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippine has been meeting its timetable in making ready the cold-chain facilities and manpower needed to roll out the vaccines.
The government has already adapted the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan, he said.
“Now that we have successfully secured safe and effective vaccines for our people, we are now working to align the deployment and vaccination plan up to the local government units. The current global supply of COVID-19 vaccines is scarce, hence we are ensuring that there will be no wastage in our COVID-19 immunization program,” Duque said.
WHO immunization program coordinator Ann Lindstrand said priority was given to countries that had not started vaccinating, while health worker deaths in January were also factored in.
For the 92 lower- and lower-middle income economies involved in Covax, funding is covered through donations, while for richer countries, buying into bulk purchases operates like a back-up insurance policy for their own vaccination programs.
The first wave distribution list includes 240 million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, licensed to the Serum Institute of India; 96 million advance-purchased AstraZeneca-Oxford doses; and 1.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Both vaccines require two injected doses.
Pfizer-BioNTech is the only vaccine to have received emergency use approval from the WHO. Evaluation is under way for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
Berkeley said though they were “impatient... to get these doses out, there are conditions that must be in place.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech doses – requiring special ultra-cold storage – are destined for 18 countries by the end of March, with Colombia, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, South Korea and Ukraine getting the most at 117,000 doses each.
The other scheduled recipients are Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cape Verde, El Salvador, Georgia, Maldives, Moldova, Mongolia, the Palestinian Territories, Rwanda and Tunisia.
The first round list, including both vaccine types, is subject to change but should allow countries to plan ahead.
Some wealthy self-financing countries were on the list, including South Korea (2.6 million doses), Canada (1.9 million) and New Zealand (250,000).
Also on Thursday, Senator Panfilo Lacson said officials who fed President Rodrigo Duterte the wrong information about the European Union export ban should stop treating him “like a mushroom--kept in the dark and fed s—t.”
Since the President criticized the EU, the bloc has reassured the Philippines was among the 92 low- and middle-income countries that are exempted from the EU vaccine export ban.
“So, it wasn’t EU’s fault after all. Those feeding the President false information are doing him and the country a disservice and should resign to save us all from international embarrassment,” Lacson said.
In other developments:
* Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the National Bureau of Investigation would mobilize its assets to monitor the entry of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines from China. Guevarra said the NBI will also double its monitoring efforts to prevent these fake drugs from reaching the public following reports that counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines from China were also being sold to other countries.
* The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it was likely that an emergency use authorization would be granted to the Gamaleya Institute for its Sputnik V vaccine this month. The vaccine is 91.6 percent effective against COVID-19, results published in medical journal The Lancet said.
* The FDA also said vaccines produced by Pfizer are likely to be the first used to inoculate health care workers and frontliners. since the Philippines will be getting its first supply of vaccines from the Covax facility led by WHO. So far, WHO has given an EUA only to Pfizer, he said.
* The Department of Health said it would complete a master list of frontline health workers who will get priority in the government’s immunization program. Health n Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire made the announcement as the government prepares to roll out COVID-19 vaccines with the arrival of the first batch of Pfizer and Astrazeneca doses from the Covax Facility later this month.
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