PH may get vaccines in first quarter next year

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    THE Philippines may get COVID-19 vaccines being developed by Pfizer starting in the first quarter of next year, according to Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.

    He also said the vaccines may be sold to the Philippines at a low price, or about $5 a shot.

    Pfizer Inc announced on Monday that its vaccine, jointly developed with BioNTech SE, was more than 90% effective based on initial trial results.

    Aside from Pfizer, Moderna is also ready to supply the Philippines with vaccines, once developed, Romualdez said. The Philippines is also talking with Johnson & Johnson which may complete its trials before the year ends, he said.

    Romualdez, in a taped interview that was aired yesterday during a briefing in Malacañang, said the Philippines has been talking with Pfizer for about three or four months now, and the US has committed to supply the vaccine at an affordable price to “simple” non-rich nations like the Philippines.

    “Hindi naman ibebenta sa mga bayan kagaya natin na mahal dahil alam nila na tayo ay simple country. It will be sold to many of their allies, specifically the Philippines, na hindi naman gaano kamahal (They won’t sell it at a high price to countries like ours. It will be sold to many of their allies, specifically the Philippines, at not that high a price),” he said.

    He said Pfizer and the other US pharmaceutical firms talked with the Philippine embassy after Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. talked with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo about the Philippines’ request for access to vaccines being developed by the US.

    He said Pfizer has been in touch with the Food and Drug Administration in the Philippines in anticipation of US approval and start of production.

    “Actually, mayroon na tayong agreement… the US government itself is the one that is encouraging its pharmaceutical companies to talk to countries like ours, at ang Pfizer ang nangunguna… once na na-approve tayo ng FDA natin diyan, they are prepared to already plan the supply for us (Actually, we already have an agreement… the US government itself is the one that is encouraging its pharmaceutical companies to talk to countries like ours, and Pfizer was the first one … once our FDA approves, they are prepared to already plan the supply for us),” he said.

    He also said the US firms are also not seeking any down payment for the procurement of vaccines but only asks for a contract with the Philippine government.

    He said there are also some private business groups in the Philippines which are offering to help fund the procurement of the vaccines because they, too, would need the vaccines for their employees.

    Romualdez said it can be expected that priority of the initial batch of vaccine to be produced would go to the US but the bulk of a targeted one billion vaccines is expected to be available by the middle of 2021.

    He could not say how many doses of vaccines will be sold to the Philippines but he said the government targets to inoculate at least up to 60 percent of the population, which is why the country is also talking with other firms and other countries like China and Russia.

    President Duterte has said he wants some 20 million poor Filipinos, among other sectors, to be the first to receive vaccines against the coronavirus disease. He later said he wants all Filipinos to be vaccinated.

    Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said Pfizer’s figures would still be subjected to verification but the 90 percent effectiveness at this stage is an encouraging sign.

    “Kung 90 percent at mapatunayan iyan dito sa mga datos na maga-gather, ang tingin ko mataas iyon. (If the claim of 90 percent effectiveness is verified and backed by data, that is a very high standard),” he said.

    Dela Peña was quick to point out that under the rules, any vaccine will still have to undergo review and evaluation by the Vaccine Expert Panel created by the Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases. – With Peter Tabingo