Duterte authorizes FDA to allow emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines

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    PRESIDENT Duterte has authorized the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to grant emergency use authorization (EUA) for potential vaccines for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

    Under Executive Order No. 121 issued on December 1, the FDA director general can issue EUAs under three conditions: if there is reason to believe the drug or vaccine may be effective in preventing, diagnosing or treating COVID-19; if the potential benefits of the vaccines outweigh possible risks; and if there is “no adequate, approved and available alternative to the drug or vaccine.”

    The Department of Health sought authority for the FDA following breakthroughs in COVID-19 vaccine developments in several countries, and the start of emergency use of candidate vaccines by frontliners in some countries.

    Yesterday, Britain became the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use.

    Pfizer said Britain’s emergency use authorization marks a historic moment in the fight against COVID-19.

    Both Pfizer-BioNTech and US biotech firm Moderna have reported preliminary findings of more than 90 percent effectiveness – an unexpectedly high rate – in trials of their vaccines, which are both based on new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

    The Philippines is eyeing to procure vaccines from Pfizer, together with that of AstraZeneca, and from China’s Sinovac Biotech and Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute.

    Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the vaccines being developed by China and Russia may be made available to the Philippines in the first quarter of next year, if the country can close negotiations this month.

    He said once an agreement is reached, Sinovac and Gamaleya will have 60 days to 90 days to prepare and ship the vaccine to the country, making the vaccine available by February or March.

    Galvez previously said that the best scenario is that vaccines would be in the country by the end of the second quarter to middle of next year but the realistic scenario is that vaccines would start arriving in the country by the last quarter of 2021 to the early parts of 2022.

    He said most rich countries secured supplies of potential vaccines and only 18 percent of the future production will be available to other smaller nations.

    The Philippines aims to vaccinate 70 to 80 percent of its 108 million population in three to five year’s time.

    LAWMAKERS

    The House of Representatives is eyeing the vaccination of all lawmakers and employees after almost 10 percent of them have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, with 98 new cases recorded.

    “Mass vaccination is one of the thrusts that Speaker Lord Allan Velasco wants to implement. Allocating funds for the purchase of vaccines is also one of our top priorities,” secretary general Mark Leandro Mendoza told reporters in an online press conference.

    The House of Representatives has so far recorded 191 cases, including Reps. Francisco Datol Jr. of Senior Citizens party-list and Maria Bernardita “Ditas” Ramos, who both died of the disease along with three employees.

    Mendoza, however, said it remains “safe” at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City, since only five percent of congressmen and employees tested positive for the virus since Velasco took over last October.

    Most of the COVID cases came from “community transmission” and not from the Batasan which means that there is no epidemic there, Mendoza said. — With Wendell Vigilia and Reuters