193k Pfizer shots arrive, set for MM, Davao, Cebu cities

A batch of 193,050 Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses arrived in the Philippines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 on Monday night before 9 p.m.

193k Pfizer shots arrive, set for MM, Davao, Cebu cities
MORE JABS. Government officials and Pfizer executives flash the first sign as the Philippines welcomed the arrival of 193,050 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines via DHL Plane Flight LD457 at NAIA Terminal 2 in Pasay City on Monday. The Pfizer jab is the 4th available vaccine brand in the country. PCOO Photo
A total of 132,210 shots from this shipment will be allocated to Metro Manila. Cebu City and Davao City will each receive 15 percent of the shipment or 29,250 doses each.

The preferred storage for the vaccine is in ultra-low temperature freezers between -80ºC to -60ºC, but it can be stored “for five days at refrigerated 2-8°C conditions,” Pfizer said.

It is due to this requirement that vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. previously said its distribution would be limited to Metro Manila, Cebu City, and Davao City.

However, Quirino Province will now receive 1,710 doses, while the remaining 1,710 doses will serve as buffer stock.

Galvez, chief implementer of the National Task Force against COVID-19, is confident the Philippines can handle, store and distribute the Pfizer vaccines.

The Pfizer vaccines will be brought directly to the cold storage facility of PharmaServ Express in San Roque, Marikina.

Galvez said the country’s “world class” cold storage facilities are well prepared for the influx of different COVID-19 vaccines that require various storage temperatures in the coming days and weeks.

He pointed to how PharmaServ handled the distribution of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines to different local government units in Metro Manila last week.

Galvez said the firm has “the capability to accept vaccines that need different storage temperature requirements, from Sinovac and AstraZeneca’s positive 2 to 8 degrees to the negative 18 degrees Celsius required by Gamaleya and even the negative 80 to negative 25 degrees Celsius temperature requirement of Moderna.”

“We are prepared for it. Our supply chain is well prepared,” he said.

The vaccine czar was also informed by the management of Pharmaserv that the vaccines won’t be spoiled even if left for three days in the freezer “because they are well-preserved due to its accurate temperature.”

For the past few months, PharamaServ said it has been distributing the COVID-19 vaccines without a temperature breach and has reached the intended local government units.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines will be distributed in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao only, the Department of Health (DOH) said on Monday. 

These areas have shown that they could handle the low-temperature requirement to maintain the COVID-19 jabs’ efficacy, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

“We give them to local government units that already have the storage capacity,” Vergeire said in an online press conference.

“These are the ones that have shown that they have ultra-low freezers and that they are capable of handling these vaccines so we don’t have wastage,” she said.

The largest real-world study of the Pfizer vaccine confirmed that the shot provided more than 95% protection against COVID-19.

However, it also found that the level dropped significantly when people received just one of the two prescribed doses.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Philippines is also set to receive 1.1 million doses of the Pfizer jab from the COVAX Facility, 500,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, and two million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine within the year.

On Saturday, the Philippines received over 2 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX facility.

The Philippines expects to receive some 193,000 COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer next week, and another 2 million doses by mid-2021.

Since the Philippines began its COVID-19 inoculation in March, the country has been using AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines, as these can be stored in regular refrigerator temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.

Earlier this month, the Philippines received its initial shipment of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines, which must be stored at -18 degrees Celsius.

The country distributed the Russian-developed injections to five Metro Manila cities to see if these local governments are capable of storing and handling the temperature-sensitive vaccines.

The largest real-world study of the Pfizer vaccine confirmed that the jab provides more than 95 percent protection against the virus.

However, it also found that the level dropped significantly when people received just one of the two prescribed doses.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier said the Philippines is set to receive 1.1 million doses of Pfizer from the COVAX Facility, 500,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine, and 2 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine this year.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 jab maker BioNTech said Monday it would build a Southeast Asia headquarters and manufacturing site in Singapore to produce hundreds of millions of mRNA-based vaccines per year.

Construction of the site will start this year, and it could become operational by 2023, the German company said in a statement.

“With this planned mRNA production facility, we will increase our overall network capacity and expand our ability to manufacture and deliver our mRNA vaccines and therapies to people around the world,” said BioNTech chief executive Ugur Sahin.

The vaccine produced by BioNTech jointly with Pfizer of the United States became the first COVID-19 jab to be approved for use in the West late last year.

It is now supplying more than 90 countries worldwide and is expecting to ramp up its production to up to 3 billion doses by the end of the year from 2.5 billion doses expected previously.

The pace will further accelerate to more than 3 billion doses in 2022.

The Singapore production site will be the German company’s first mRNA manufacturing facility outside Europe and will have an estimated capacity of several hundred million doses of such vaccines.

Its partner Pfizer operates production sites in the United States as well as in Belgium.

In a bid to raise global production capacities for their COVID vaccine, BioNTech, and Pfizer have set out licensing and manufacturing partnerships with other pharmaceutical companies such as Merck, Novartis, and Sanofi.

Both BioNTech and Pfizer have argued that the extension of such cooperation is what would help ensure a wider supply of vaccines, and not a patent waiver as the United States has sought.

Messenger RNA genetic technology trains the body to reproduce spike proteins, similar to that found on the coronavirus.

When exposed to the real virus later, the body recognizes the spike proteins and is able to fight them off.

US pharmaceutical firm Moderna uses the same technology for its vaccine.

The DOH said more than 500,000 of the 2 million additional doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine will be acquired by Metro Manila, the epicenter of the pandemic.

In the latest AstraZeneca shipment, Vergeire said Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and Calabarzon will be allocated the highest number of doses.

“The highest allocations are in the NCR Plus bubble because we know that our focus is… to have herd containment here in this epicenter,” she said in an online briefing.

More than 1.7 million individuals have been vaccinated as of May 4, still far off from the government’s target of inoculating 50 million to 70 million people this year.

Duque, meanwhile, said the DOH would seek emergency use authorization (EUA) for Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine so that the country won’t have to return a batch of donated vaccines from Beijing.

President Rodrigo Duterte was inoculated with the brand last week, triggering a backlash for using a vaccine without an EUA. With AFP

Topics: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine , COVID-19 , Carlito Galvez Jr. , arrive
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