The government is eyeing to sign a deal for the procurement of another 20 million doses of AstraZeneca's coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine by the end of December, National Policy Against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez said.
"Maybe next week, either December 28 or 29, we are just waiting for the Ministry of Health Regulatory Authorization of the United Kingdom and we could sign the contract," Galvez said during the public briefing of President Rodrigo Duterte Monday night.
Galvez said out of the 20 million doses of vaccine, around 10 million will be allocated for local government units (LGUs) and the private sector.
Galvez also reported a positive outcome of the government's negotiation with pharmaceutical companies to secure COVID-19 vaccines.
"The results are positive with those company owners and) country [representatives], they agree on strong support on non-profit–no loss concept," he said.
They also agreed to negotiate the COVID-19 vaccine at a lower price, he added.
"I think it will only cost P500 per two shots of vaccine," Galvez said.
With his talks with the country representative of the Serum Institute of India, a manufacturer of immunobiological drugs, Galvez said the company committed to comply with the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 9184 also known as Government Procurement Reform Act.
Galvez said the government expects to get 30 million doses of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine. With AFP
The government targets to vaccinate about 60 million Filipinos by the second and third quarter of 2021, Galvez said.
The co-founder of BioNTech said Tuesday it was "highly likely" that its vaccine against the coronavirus works against the mutated strain detected in Britain, but it could also adapt the vaccine if necessary in six weeks.
"Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variant," said Ugur Sahin.
But if needed, "in principle the beauty of the messenger technology is that we can directly start to engineer a vaccine which completely mimics this new mutation — we could be able to provide a new vaccine technically within six weeks."
Sahin said the variant detected in Britain has nine mutations, rather than just one as is usually common.
Nevertheless, he voiced confidence that the vaccine developed with Pfizer would be efficient because it "contains more than 1,000 amino acids, and only nine of them have changed, so that means 99 percent of the protein is still the same".
PH 'second fiddle'
The Philippines is seemingly playing “second fiddle” in the purchase of vaccines for coronavirus disease 2019 because the country has “no clout” and is “not rich,” President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday night.
Duterte made this remark after Health Secretary Francisco Duque III came under fire for allegedly having “dropped the ball” in negotiations with Pfizer on the delivery of the vaccines for the Philippines.
“May I just explain to the public the reason why we — we seemed to be a second fiddle in these negotiations for the acquisition of vaccines. We’re second fiddle, it’s because rich countries where vaccines are made, like those made by Pfizer, will prioritize America,” he said in a taped speech.
He said there were “no available” vaccines from Pfizer for the Philippines, adding that “it remains to be seen” when the American pharmaceutical company could supply the country with.
“Let us be clear on this, there is as yet no Pfizer vaccines available for the Philippines. And for a long time, there won’t be. They’re vaccinating all Americans. They’re scrambling to get them,” he said.
He also reiterated that vaccine czar Carlito Galvez will be the only person-in-charge of handling the purchase of vaccines.
Meanwhile, Duterte said he was assured by Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez that there were enough funds to pay for the vaccines.
“Avisado said there’s money. Dominguez said there’s money. So we can do it. There’s no problem. What are we worrying about?” he said.
He urged the public to trust him as their elected President, instead of those that spin rumors to make the government look bad.
“Just listen to me since I was the one chosen. I’m the one you elected President, right? So I am supposed to solve problems for you, for the people,” he said.
Last week, Malacañang said Duterte asked Duque to answer allegations made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin that he was responsible for the delay in the purchase of Pfizer vaccines.
Duque earlier denied that he did not immediately prepare the necessary documents for the deal, noting that the government was still scrutinizing them.
Roque earlier said the Philippines might still acquire Pfizer’s vaccine between the second and third quarter of 2021.
“Let us not belittle our capability,” said Sen. Joel Villanueva, in reaction to the statement President Rodrigo Duterte that "we do not have the clout because we are not a rich nation” in securing the COVID-19 vaccines,
He noted the country's neighbors were managing to secure the best vaccines under negotiated terms.
“I still believe in the capability of Filipinos…There are also global calls for just distribution of the vaccine. We have to support this movement,” said Villanueva.
Sen. Christopher Go, also the chair of the Senate Committee on Health, stressed there should only be a single line of authority when it comes to the negotiation, purchase, management and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“He is the center here. He is the captain ball. If they’re saying somebody [dropped] the ball, the ball was passed to him because the coach said, give it to the captain ball. He will take charge,” he said, referring to vaccine czar and National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr.
LGUs to buy vaccines
A legislator on Tuesday backed the proposal to allow local government units to procure COVID-19 vaccines on their own.
“I hope the national government will decentralize the procurement and vaccination process to ensure a speedy and efficient roll-out, especially as some of our LGUs have expressed their readiness and have set aside their own funds for the purchase of vaccines for their constituents,” Assistant Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said.
By allowing LGUs with the capacity to pay to procure their own vaccines, Vargas, chair of the House committee on social services, said the national government can focus on other priority areas, such as inoculating frontline workers and localities that have lower income.
The Quezon City government is looking to spend P1 billion on COVID vaccines, according to Joseph Juico, co-chair of the city's COVID-19 Task Force.
The cities of Manila, Davao, Iligan, among others, have also said they have set aside funds for purchasing vaccines.
Vargas stressed the need for LGUs to be taken into the fold and given a more active role given the magnitude of the government’s vaccination plan, which the solon said, could prove a logistical nightmare.
Congress has allotted P72.5 billion in the proposed 2021 national budget for the purchase of COVID vaccines next year.
The government is currently negotiating supply agreements with various manufacturers for 60 million doses by the middle of next year.
Vargas, though, reminded that the allocation for vaccines is “unprogrammed,” which means it is still subject to fund availability.
“Given that we cannot guarantee its sources, the willingness of LGUs to buy will certainly be a huge boost,” he added.
Meanwhile, Vargas also appealed to Quezon City residents not to neglect practicing health protocols during the holiday season, as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the city.
Quezon City’s COVID-19 reproduction rate already reached 1.15. Experts recommend that the reproduction rate should be kept below 1. The reproduction rate is the number of people that one Covid-19 positive case can infect. With AFP