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Phl can get Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines as early as April: envoy

MJ Blancaflor

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Coronavirus vaccines manufactured by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer might be delivered to the Philippines in April and earlier than what was expected, an envoy said Sunday.

In a radio interview, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said the embassy is working with Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and other agencies to expedite the delivery of COVID-19 serums in the country.

“I just talked to Secretary Galvez and it appears that we will have it soon, but we can’t be certain yet how early,” Romualdez told radio station dzBB.

“We are expecting it to be delivered during midyear. But maybe, we can get it earlier than that. So, we’re hoping that we can get it in April maybe,” he added.

The COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech has been proven at least 95 percent effective in the last phase of its clinical trials.

Since then, it has secured an emergency use authorization from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Singapore, among others.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. bared last year that 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer were supposed to be shipped to the Philippines this month but “somebody dropped the ball.”

Following the delay in the procurement process, the expected delivery to the Philippines has been moved to mid-2021.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III belied allegations that the Philippines missed its chance to secure Pfizer vaccines due to his failure to approve the confidentiality disclosure agreement with the manufacturer, insisting that negotiations with the pharma giant are ongoing.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to decide on January 14 whether it will allow Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines’ local use. Last year, Pfizer submitted its application to the Philippines’ FDA for emergency use authorization.

Apart from Pfizer, the Philippines is also in talks with other vaccine manufacturers such as Britain’s AstraZeneca, China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac, among others.

While the government is securing COVID-19 jabs, a pro-vaccination advocate on Sunday said the public’s distrust on vaccines is due to misinformation or “fake news.”

Doctor Lulu Bravo, executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, urged the public to trust medical experts after a recent Pulse Asia survey found that nearly half or 47 percent of 2,400 adult Filipinos will reject COVID-19 vaccines even if it become available.

“The public’s doubt will gradually disappear if our experts… if they will get inoculated,” Bravo told radio station dzMM. “Let’s believe in real experts.”

The same Pulse Asia survey showed that concern about the safety of the vaccines is the primary reason for those who will reject it. Such sentiment was highest in Metro Manila.

Meanwhile, some 7 percent were concerned that it might not be free, 5 percent said a vaccination was not required to combat COVID-19, while 4 percent said it might be expensive.

Health experts have earlier noted that the Dengvaxia scare in 2017 contributed to immunization hesitancy in the Philippines. In 2017, the government stopped its nationwide dengue vaccination program and pulled Dengvaxia off the market after drugmaker Sanofi disclosed that those without prior infection are at risk of having “severe disease” if immunized with their vaccine.

The government is eyeing to roll out its large-scale vaccination program this year against COVID-19. Among the priority groups for inoculation were over 1.7 million health workers, 3.7 million indigent senior citizens, over 5.6 million remaining senior citizens, nearly 13 million poorest citizens, and 500,000 uniformed personnel.

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