1M vaccine doses expected next month

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    GOVERNMENT expects up to a million doses of vaccines for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to arrive in the country next month, which would roll out government’s mass vaccination program, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said yesterday.

    Of the expected one million doses, half will come the controversial Sinovac Biotech, a Chinese private firm.

    The other half, Galvez said, is still subject to negotiations. He said he expects 200,000 to 500,000 doses of vaccines from the UK’s AstraZeneca PLC and the US firm Pfizer Inc. under the COVAX Facility.

    It was unclear if the 500,000 doses from Sinovac is donation promised by China.

    “Magkakaroon po tayo ng (We will have ng early an) rollout, this February, more or less, more than one million doses,” Galvez said during a visit at the vaccination hub in Lakeshore Complex, Taguig City.

    He said the medical workers and other health frontliners would be the first to be vaccinated.

    Galvez reassured the public that the vaccine would not be used unless these are safe and have been approved or issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration.

    He said the government is committed to inoculate 70 million Filipinos this year, even while he acknowledged that there is a shortfall in the vaccine production, which could delay the inoculation program.

    “Kung magiging available po iyong supply po natin within the year, kaya po natin iyong 50 to 70 million. (If the supply is available within the year, we can reach the 50 to 70 million target),” he said amid reports by “The Economist” that the Philippines is likely to complete the inoculation of 60 million people by the fourth quarter of 2023.

    The government has been negotiating with seven pharmaceutical firms to purchase P148 million doses of vaccines for 50 million to 70 million Filipinos.

    The Food and Drug Administration said it may issue a decision today on AstraZeneca’s EUA application.

    FDA Director General Eric Domingo said the agency has received the recommendation of the vaccine experts panel on the application of AstraZeneca.

    “They gave their recommendations yesterday and I am just going through them. They are quite positive. They are very favorable. So, I am just looking at the data now for the technical quality side and the safety side,” he said.

    AstraZeneca submitted its EUA application on January 6. It has been given EUAs by the United Kingdom, Mexico, Argentina, and India.

    Sinovac’s UAE application is still under evaluation, together with that of Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute and India’s Bharat Biotech.

    Pfizer was granted EUA on January 14.

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said those who have recovered from COVID-19 should also get immunized.

    “According to experts, the possibility of being reinfected is there. So we are advised to receive the vaccine still,” she said but added the the vaccine should be given “after three months” after recovery.

    EUA BILL

    Sen. Francis Tolentino on Tuesday filed Senate Bill 2024 which seeks to amend RA 3720 or the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, to institutionalize the grant by the FDA of emergency use authorization.

    The FDA’s power to issue EUAs for COVID-19 vaccines is covered by Executive Order 121 issued by President Duterte last month.

    “This glaring void in the law deems the FDA’s issuances of EUA and the grant thereof to COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers subject to stricter legal scrutiny…Hence to address the lack of authority to grant EUA under the existing FDA law, this bill seeks to amend RA 3720 in order to define EUA and provide the parameters for its issuance,” he added. — With Gerard Naval and Raymond Africa