UK envoy pledges 23-million AstraZeneca doses for PH

British Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce on Friday said the Philippines will receive as many as 23 million doses of Astra Zeneca’s vaccine against COVID-19 as part of the COVAX Facility within the year.

“I think you’ll see a steady stream of consignment arriving throughout the rest of the year, and in total I think by the end of the year we’ll have something in the order of 22 to 23 million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the Philippines,” Pruce said in a television interview.

Pruce said the Philippines is expected to get a steady supply of AstraZeneca vaccines starting with the 487,200 doses that arrived on Thursday night. AstraZeneca is a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company based in Cambridge, England.

The British envoy stressed that the vaccine shipments will include the doses contained in the tripartite agreements between AstraZeneca, private firms, and local government units in the Philippines. It also committed more doses from the COVAX Facility, a global initiative led by the World Health Organization (WHO).

On Thursday night, 487,200 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine arrived in the Philippines, the second vaccine shipment following the arrival of 600,000 CoronaVac doses from China’s Sinovac on Feb. 28.

Pruce said he was delighted by the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccines in the Philippines, describing it as a “wonderful moment.”

He said the vaccine consignments are part of the United Kingdom’s commitment to do all it can to ensure equitable access to safe and effective vaccines.

He also noted AstraZeneca’s commitment to supply the vaccine “on a not-for-profit basis” during the pandemic.

WHO country representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said 4.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive in the country by batches before the end of May.

AstraZeneca, which can be administered to individuals aged 18 and above, secured an emergency use authorization from the Philippine Food and Drug administration on Jan. 28.

Based on FDA evaluation, AstraZeneca’s efficacy rate reached 70 percent after the first dose and that such rating increases after administration of the second dose after four to 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, the initial batch of Moderna vaccines against COVID-19 is expected to arrive by May or June 2021, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Romualdez said Friday.

“We’ve already concluded the agreement. The only problem now is the supply and we’re threshing out when they can deliver,” he said. “We’re hoping that we will have the first deliveries by either the end of May or early part of June.”

Romualdez said Manila was able to secure about 20 million doses of vaccines developed by the American firm, along with the private sector which helped purchase the vials.

“Almost half of that will go to the private sector and their employees… and the other half will go to our health workers and the rest of Filipinos that will be receiving the Moderna through the LGUs (local government units) and other entities there in the Philippines,” he said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said on Friday he could finally get vaccinated against COVID-19, following the arrival of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus jabs in the Philippines.

Duque, in a forum at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City, said AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine could be used for senior citizens like him.

“What’s good in AstraZeneca is that it can be used on people aged 60 above. This is why I will have myself vaccinated as a doctor who vaccinates other patients and who inspects other health care facilities like hospitals,” said Duque, who just turned 64 in February.

Unlike Sinovac’s vaccine, which arrived last Sunday, AstraZeneca shots can be administered to the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

However, AstraZeneca is not yet recommended for those below the age of 18.

Meanwhile, Sinovac’s Phase I and II trials in China showed the vaccine could safely trigger immune response for older participants but the firm cautioned that data for the protection rate among people aged 60 and above was “limited.”

As of March 4, 2020, 13,629 Filipinos have been vaccinated. Some 47 had minor side effects that included mild fever, soreness at the site of the injection, and dizziness.

Three people reported serious side effects but these have yet to be verified.

The government had yet to also allocate some 183,440 doses of the Sinovac’s vaccine as of Friday.

Meanwhile, the FDA said Friday it still has not started evaluating the vaccine from the Chinese state company Sinopharm as it has yeet to file the required documents for emergency use authorization (EUA).

FDA Director General Eric Domingo said they already sent the local distributor a list of required documents for the EUA.

Currently, only Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinovac have EUAs for their COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines. While an EUA does not allow the commercial sale of vaccines, it allows the government to use them for the national immunization program.

The FDA said it might release their decision on the EUA application of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine next but the lack of some documents on the manufacturing process is holding up the process.

“We need proof of good manufacturing practice, the consistency of the product’s quality and its stability when it’s delivered here,” Domingo said.

Also awaiting the FDA’s decision is Bharat Biotech from India.

Also on Friday, members of the OCTA Research Team dissociated themselves from the view of one of their fellows who said injecting the AstraZeneca vaccine into COVID-19 patients with the South African variant of the coronavirus was “no different from injecting water.”

In an interview on ANC, Dr. Guido David said he disagreed with Fr. Nicanor Austriaco who said the AstraZeneca jab was ineffective against the South African variant.

“We actually don’t agree with it, that it is ineffective. In fact, we agree with the WHO position,” David said.

Earlier, a WHO official maintained that the AstraZeneca vaccine is still effective even in areas with widespread transmission of the South Africa variant, noting that the study showing otherwise only had a “very small sample” of fewer than 2,000 patients.

Topics: Daniel Pruce , Astra Zeneca , COVID-19 , World Health Organization
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