Rody okays advance payment for COVID-19 vaccines

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    PRESIDENT Duterte has approved proposals to make advance payments for vaccines for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to ensure the country will have the vaccines once these are ready, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.

    Duterte also “approved in principle” an executive order so that vaccines, which had been approved overseas for emergency use, can be used in the Philippines.

    “We agreed to pay in advance because if we don’t, we might be the last among countries to get the vaccine,” Roque told a media briefing.

    Duterte had been against making advance payments to pharmaceutical firms developing potential vaccines but Roque said the President recognized the importance of making reservations, especially as rich countries have been making reservations.

    Carlito Galvez Jr., National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar, recommended to the President to allow the Philippines to enter into advance market commitments (AMCs) with private manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure the country would get more vaccines.

    Galvez declined to say how much money had been allocated for the advance payment or how many vaccine doses would be involved, but said the vaccines are “affordable.” In previous briefings, he said the lowest price that the government was able to negotiate was $5 a dose.

    Galvez said government was in talks with several vaccine makers, including Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc, over possible supply deals.

    Pfizer said on Wednesday it could secure emergency US and European authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine next month after final trial results showed it had a 95% success rate and no serious side effects.

    Moderna on Monday released preliminary data for its vaccine showing 94.5% effectiveness.
    Duterte has said previously his preference was for his country to source its COVID-19 vaccines from either China or Russia.

    Government has also been looking at bilateral and multilateral vaccine deals, including tapping the World Health Organization’s global vaccine project, known as COVAX, to bolster the country’s prospective arsenal against the pandemic.

    Duterte has said the budget was there to purchase vaccines but he wanted a bigger supply in order to inoculate the entire Philippine population.

    Galvez has said vaccines could start arriving between May and July next year, with the bulk likely to come by the end of 2021 or early 2022.

    Galvez said government is in talks with pharmaceutical firms from the US, China, and the UK but there are also talks with firms in Singapore and Australia, which could allocate 15 million to 50 million doses of vaccines each.

    Galvez also assured the public that while allowing the issuance of Emergency Use Authority (EUAs) will shorten the process of approval of the vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration, the vaccines would still have to pass the vaccines expert panel and ethics review board and the FDA. – With Reuters