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No Pfizer, COVAX supplies sked yet

The vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility has yet to give a new schedule for the arrival of 525,600 COVID-19 doses from Britain's AstraZeneca, an official said on Monday.

The country launched its inoculation drive against the coronavirus using jabs from China's Sinovac Monday, a day after 600,000 doses arrived from China.

The AstraZeneca product, initially set to arrive Monday, could have been the Philippines' second vaccine supply. However, supply problems pushed back the supposed delivery, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

AstraZeneca has been granted emergency use authorization in the Philippines, as well as Pfizer and Sinovac.

"Beyond pesos and cents, I think the arrival of the vaccines (Sunday) gives all Filipinos hope that this pandemic  will end,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque told in a televised briefing.

Waiting for Pfizer

Meanwhile, Carlito Galvez Jr, chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said Filipinos should refrain from anticipating COVID-19 shots from US-based Pfizer anytime soon.

A negotiation for the Philippines to get Pfizer's jabs is "ongoing", including an indemnity agreement that protects vaccine makers from suit in case of adverse effects, Galvez said.

He added: "We are waiting for them because we have long informed them of our indemnity agreement. The ball is in their court.

"The supply of Pfizer is really in demand. We should not expect that Pfizer will arrive soon. Almost all countries get Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.”

The Philippines will get Pfizer shots from vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility in the second quarter of the year. Shots that the country will buy from Pfizer could arrive in the third or fourth quarter, said Galvez.

COVAX was supposed to send 117,000 Pfizer doses in mid-February, but the lack of an indemnification agreement delayed their arrival indefinitely.

Pfizer did not mention its requirement of this deal in initial negotiations, and only informed Philippine officials of this in mid-February, said Galvez.

"That's why we were surprised when they said we need to have an annex.

They want some provisions that we cannot do, considering that this is only our protection just in case there is gross negligence.,” he said.

Sinopharm application

China-owned pharmaceutical firm Sinopharm has applied for an emergency use authorization (EUA) of its COVID-19 vaccine before the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines, Malacanang said Monday.

Roque said the EUA means the approval of Sinopharm vaccines could be issued in as fast as 21 days.

“It has been filed. They have already filed with the FDA an application for EUA,” Roque said during the briefing on Day 1 of the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

FDA Director General Eric Domingo has yet to confirm Sinopharm's EUA application.

He said the FDA will take four to six weeks to evaluate the Sinopharm vaccine once it applies for EUA due to its lack of approval from any stringent regulatory authority such as the US FDA or the World Health Organization.

Security detail

FDA granted Duterte's security detail a compassionate permit for the use of 10,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine last month.

The Presidential Security Group admitted to vaccinating some of its members in September and October 2020.

Roque said Duterte was also qualified to receive vaccine shots from Sinopharm under the compassionate use license since he is the commander-in-chief of the military.

Meanwhile, an official leading the Philippines' vaccination strategy said he would fly to India next week and sign a supply agreement for COVID-19 shots developed by US biotech firm Novavax.

Officials earlier said the Philippines would get 30 million doses of the Novavax vaccine manufactured

UK variant

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong confirmed Monday the first known case of B.1.1.7 or UK variant in the country's summer capital.

The variant was detected in a 30-year old female who tested positive for Coronavirus disease on Feb. 12, 2021 and tagged as recovered on Feb. 23, 2021.

The mayor said contact tracing efforts had been intensified to contain the spread of the more transmissible variant.

Meanwhile, the Philippines logged 2,037 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 578,381, as one laboratory was not able to submit its data to the COVID-19 Document Repository System (CDRS) on time, the Department of Health reported.

The DOH also reported four fatalities, bringing the death toll to 12,322, which is 2.13 percent of the total.

Willing Speaker

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said he was more than willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in public to convince Filipinos that the vaccine was safe and necessary.

Velasco said elected officials like him should be “at the forefront” of the government’s vaccination campaign to encourage everyone to get inoculated against the disease that has already killed more than 12,300 people nationwide.

“Our elected leaders should be at the forefront to be able to show the people that we really need this vaccine to arrest the pandemic,” Velasco told reporters after he led Monday’s physical flag-raising ceremony, the first one conducted by the House since the pandemic started last year.

President Duterte recently signed into law the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which Velasco principally authored in the House.

The legislation seeks to expedite the purchase and administration of COVID-19 vaccines and set up an indemnity fund to compensate individuals who will experience adverse effects after vaccination.

Vaccine offensive

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the government should match frontliners’ heroism with vaccine offensive.

“It is said to be the first shot in our nation’s counterattack against the virus,” said Recto.

“That it was given to Dr. Gap Legaspi, ground commander of the biggest COVID-19 hospital, only underscores the moral responsibility of this government to support the continuing heroism of our frontliners with a vaccine offensive,” Recto added.

Legaspi is the director of Philippine General Hospital, who got the first shot of a Sinovac vaccine donated by China which arrived in the country Sunday.

'Consistently inconsistent'

Health workers staged a lunch break protest action Monday at the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP), one of the Covid-19 referral hospitals, to express their exasperation and doubts behind the "consistently inconsistent" pronouncements and decisions by Department of Health officials and the Duterte government on the vaccine issue.

The workers stood firm on their demand for a free, safest and most efficacious COVID-19 vaccine for all because they believe that health workers’ and people’s lives matter most.

Last February 22, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration announced that the Sinovac vaccine was not recommended for health workers with frequent exposure to COVID-19 patients because the vaccine’s efficacy rate was only 50.4 percent based on Sinovac’s clinical trials conducted in Brazil.

On February 25, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that medical frontliners would still be prioritized for the Sinovac vaccine despite the pronouncement of FDA.

Topics: COVAX Facility , COVID-19 , AstraZeneca , Francisco Duque III
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