PH share of vaccines from COVAX reduced

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    THE Philippines’ share of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX Facility may benefit only 15 percent to 16 percent of the country’s population, lower than the initial arrangement for 20 percent, or around 40 million free doses, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said yesterday.

    The reduction was due to high demand and limited supply, said Galvez, chief implementer of the National Task Force against COVID-19.

    Galvez at the start of the “Laging Handa” public briefing, said the COVAX facility formally approved the rollout of 30 million to 40 million doses of the vaccine to the Philippines.

    COVAX is a global scheme co-led by the World Health Organization. It aims to deliver at least 2 billion COVID-19 doses across the world this year, with at least 1.3 billion going to poorer countries.

    Galvez said the vaccine from COVAX is not included in the 148 million doses the country is negotiating and procuring from seven international firms.

    Since the vaccines from COVAX are not included in the government’s target number of doses, the impact of the reduced allocation for the Philippines would not be much.

    He did not say what vaccine brands will be given to the Philippines but said
    available vaccines under the COVAX facility are from Pfizer Inc, AstraZeneca, Covavax from the Serum Institute of India, and Johnson & Johnson.

    Galvez also assured the public that cold storage facilities for vaccines are now ready.

    Government has conducted dry-runs, from delivery of the vaccines to the airports to cold storage warehouses or the vaccination sites, for the expected rollout next month.

    Galvez also said he would attend the Senate hearing today on the government vaccination program even after he met with senators on Wednesday night about the procurement process.

    Senators have been asking government for the prices of the vaccines to be procured, particularly from the private Chinese firm Sinovac but officials have been invoking confidentiality agreements.

    Galvez said the meeting with Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Rolando dela Rosa, and contact tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong.

    Galvez said he explained the procurement process and the negotiations especially, for the lowest possible price, among others.

    Sotto said Galvez assured them there will be no overpricing.

    Sotto said Galvez presented documents and proposed agreements that the Philippine government will enter into with vaccine manufacturers, and was convinced that the non-disclosure agreements must be honored.

    Sotto also said today’s hearing, the third to be held by the Senate Committee of the Whole, will push through despite the meeting with Galvez.

    Sinovac representatives are among the invited resource persons.

    Lacson, who invited Magalong to the meeting, said Galvez’ briefing clarified a lot of issues and concerns raised by senators, “that have remained unresolved until last (Wednesday) night.”

    “We advised him to explain in tomorrow’s (Friday’s) hearing the same way that he did last (Wednesday) night without violating the terms of the agreement with the vaccine suppliers,” he said.

    Lacson said he accepted the apology of Galvez who has accused senators of politicizing the vaccination program.

    He said he was satisfied with Galvez’ presentation and believes in the vaccines czar’s “integrity and sincerity to accomplish his task.”

    Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech became the fifth firm to seek an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration for its vaccine, Covaxin.

    FDA director general Eric Domingo said the firm filed the application yesterday morning.

    An online report said the EUA application was filed by Bharat’s local distributor, Ambica International Corporation and Family Vaccine.

    Covaxin has been granted an EUA in India.

    The FDA has approved a EUA for Pfizer-BioNTech.

    Still undergoing evaluation are the applications from of AstraZeneca, Russia’s Gamaleya, and Sinovac. – With Raymond Africa and Gerard Naval