Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on Wednesday said the Philippines is expecting coronavirus vaccines from three manufacturers — US-based Pfizer, Beijing’s Sinovac, and British firm AstraZeneca — to deliver in February, disputing Malacañang’s claim that the serums made by the Chinese firm are the only option for Filipinos until mid-2021.
Galvez disclosed this as he announced that the government will sign another tripartite deal with AstraZeneca to secure 20 million doses of serums Thursday.
In a televised briefing, Galvez explained that the Pfizer vaccine might be delivered sooner than mid-2021 because its rollout would be supervised by the Covax Alliance, a global initiative backed by the World Health Organization that seeks to give developing countries equitable access to the drug.
He added that government officials are negotiating with AstraZeneca to hasten its arrival in the country.
“Perhaps the Covax facility will be the first and it has chosen Pfizer. So, maybe Pfizer will be the first [vaccine] to arrive in the Philippines in case we qualify for it,” Galvez said.
“Sinovac might follow. Then maybe, AstraZeneca. We are already in talks to rollout AstraZeneca by the first quarter [of the year],” he added.
Galvez’s remarks came after presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing Tuesday that the Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac is the only option for Filipinos until June.
20 million additional doses
Galvez, who leads the state’s immunization efforts against Covid-19, announced the government will ink a tripartite deal with AstraZeneca Thursday.
This is on top of tripartite agreements the Philippines had signed with the British company involving the private sector and local government units.
“Tomorrow, Thursday, we will sign a tripartite agreement for more or less 20 million doses for the AstraZeneca vaccine. We are not lagging behind,” Galvez told reporters.
In November, around 30 local firms signed an agreement for 2.6 million AstraZeneca vaccine jabs. Half of these will be donated to the government, and the rest will go to the companies’ employees.
A second order was placed for an additional 3.7 to 3.8 million doses, said presidential adviser on entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion.
Meanwhile, Galvez said up to 180 million doses of vaccines might arrive in the country this year, higher than the 148 million doses initially announced by the government.
The additional 40 million doses will be sourced from the Covax facility.
“So, more or less, it can reach up to 180 million doses,” he said.
Sinovac’s EUA out soon
Galvez, meanwhile, said vaccines manufactured by China’s Sinovac might be approved for use in the Philippines next month, even if the firm has yet to apply for emergency use authorization (EUA) from the country’s regulatory agency.
“We expect the EUA to be approved before 20 February. That’s our arrangement. It’s easy to plan because we know the amount that’s arriving,” he added.
The Chinese company has yet to submit its EUA application before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This step is required for the vaccines to be approved for legal distribution in the country. It normally takes the FDA 21 days to review an application.
Galvez said Sinovac is consolidating its trial data from Brazil and Turkey before sending an application.
He said it is also waiting for China to allow the drug’s general use and exportation.
Galvez also appealed to the public not to “discriminate” the China-made vaccines, arguing that it was being used in other countries such as Singapore.
“Let’s refrain from discriminating [Sinovac] vaccines. We have seen that it is being used in Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, and Argentina. Why can’t we use it?” Galvez said.
Galvez also said President Rodrigo Duterte could help boost the public’s trust in the vaccine if he queues for inoculation.
Since the Chief Executive maintains a high popularity rating, he could persuade other Filipinos to trust vaccines against Covid-19, Galvez stated.
“We know that our beloved President has up to 91 percent popularity rating based on surveys. And we are seeing that the public’s trust in vaccines will increase if he himself will get inoculated,” he maintained.
“We have heard the President said he wants to be the first Filipino to receive a Covid-19 vaccine,” Galvez added.
The official also insisted that Sinovac’s doses are cheaper compared to other vaccines amid reports that it is the second most expensive Covid-19 vaccine at P3,629 for two required doses.
Data from the office of Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate committee on finance, showed that two doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Sinovac are priced at P3,629, which makes it the second most expensive vaccine next to Moderna priced at P3,904 to P4,504 for two doses.
Two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca only cost P610.
The Duterte administration is being criticized by lawmakers for its seeming preference for Sinovac despite its cost and low efficacy rate in clinical trials.
The Philippines has secured 25 million doses of Sinovac, with 50,000 doses set to arrive in the country next month.
Moderna on the way, too
As this developed, the Philippine government is also in the final stages of negotiations with another US-based vaccine producer Moderna for at most 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines which may arrive in the country by mid-2021, said Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez.
“I am pleased to share that, following months of discussions with Moderna, the Philippine government is in the final stages of negotiating for the supply of a minimum of 10 million doses of mRNA-1273, the company’s Covid-19 vaccine, with the option to purchase an additional 10 million doses, for delivery beginning mid-2021,” Romualdez said in a tweet.
He added businessman Enrique Razon, owner of the International Container Terminals Services, Inc., pledged to ship the vaccines from Moderna’s manufacturing facility in Spain to the Philippines for free.