PH to borrow $300M to buy COVID vaccines

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    PRESIDENT Duterte said the Philippines has set aside funds for the purchase of vaccines for the coronavirus disease and will borrow about $300 million to buy more vaccines so everyone in the country will have access to it.

    Duterte issued the statements on Tuesday night after American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. announced that the COVID-19 vaccine it is developing proved to be 90 percent effective, based on preliminary trial results, a key milestone in the war against a virus that has killed over a million people and battered the world’s economy.

    Yesterday, German biotech firm BioNTech said it is planning to price the two-shot vaccine, which it co-developed with Pfizer, below “typical market rates” and would differentiate pricing between countries or regions.

    Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez has said the vaccines may be sold to the Philippines at a low price, or about $5 a shot.

    In July, Pfizer agreed with the US government to supply 100 million doses of its potential vaccine at a price of $39 for a two-dose immunization, or $19.5 per dose, with the option to sell another 500 million doses under conditions to be negotiated separately.

    Also yesterday, Russia said its Sputnik V vaccine is 92% effective at protecting people from COVID-19, according to interim trial results.

    Duterte, in his weekly public address, did not say where the $300 million will be sourced but Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez previously said government can access funds through the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines and borrow funds through the World Bank.

    He again urged Filipinos to continue to be patient as government continues to negotiate with various nations and pharmaceutical firms to ensure the country’s access to vaccines.

    “Nandito na ang bakuna (The vaccine is here). So it’s being sold… Sonny (Dominguez) says that he can borrow money of 300 million plus to, US dollars, 300 million dollars,” he said.

    The President reiterated that the poor sector would be prioritized in vaccination and the rich or those who can afford to buy vaccines can pay for their own.

    Duterte said he expects the governments of countries developing the vaccines would prioritize their citizens.

    “We have to keep in mind that they have a population to worry and that population is not easy,” he said as he reiterated that the US and some European countries have made advance payments for the vaccines.

    The United States has purchased 300,000 doses of the treatment for this year and has an option to buy an additional 650,000 doses next year.

    The European Union hopes to sign a contract soon for millions of doses of the vaccine, the European Commission said on Monday.

    Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, during the briefing yesterday, said the country has negotiated four government-to-government agreements and continues talks for multilateral and government-private sector partnerships in connection with efforts to secure COVID-19 vaccines.

    Galvez reiterated that while there are expectations that the vaccines would already be available from the first quarter to second quarter of 2021, and that various countries and pharmaceutical firms have committed to prioritize the Philippines, bulk of the vaccines may only be “realistically” available to the country towards the end of next year as the other countries would attend to the needs of the citizens first.

    50M DOSES

    He said the target is to buy at least 50 million doses to benefit 20 million to 25 million while the target to inoculate 75 to 80 million of the Philippine population may be realized in three to five year’s time.

    Galvez said China, through its embassy in Manila, reiterated its commitment to prioritize the Philippines in the distribution of vaccines it is developing, including “donations.”

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said China’s Sinovac has passed the country’s panel of vaccine experts and is set to be endorsed to the Food and Drug Administration for clinical trial. The panel is just waiting for a couple documents from China.

    Vergeire said Sinopharm, another Chinese vaccine developer, has informed the Philippines that it is no longer interested in conducting clinical trials, given the advanced stages of clinical trials it is conducting in several countries and the positive feedback that it is getting.

    She said the manufacturers are considering applying to the FDA directly for the supply of the vaccines to the Philippines. – With Reuters