Metro Manila (AdChoiceTV News, December 6) — The Philippines may receive COVID-19 vaccine doses from Chinese and Russian manufacturers as early as the first quarter of 2021 amid “advanced” supply negotiations, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. said.
“Sinovac and Gamaleya will be having clinical trials here, either December or first week of January,” Galvez said during the Kapihan sa Manila Bay Forum on Wednesday. “With that, we are seeing based on our initial negotiations with the Chinese pharmacy that if ever we will close any deal this December, it will give them only 60-90 days to prepare and ship the vaccine.”
“We can foresee that there is a greater scenario that we can get the vaccine in the first quarter, maybe on March or late February,” he added.
This will be earlier than the United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca vaccine, which is likely to be delivered in May even if the tripartite agreement was signed last week.
Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech was the first to seek permission to hold clinical trials in the Philippines. Earlier, the Chinese government said Manila will be a priority for supply allocations.
Galvez added that the Sinovac deal will be beneficial to the country as the undisclosed price will also cover the cost of shipment and distribution.
Some Filipinos have expressed apprehension in receiving China-made vaccines, drawing mistrust from the mainland’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak that originated there and partly to geopolitical tensions. Citing the local vaccine expert panel, Galvez said the China-made doses could turn out safer as these depend on classical vaccine formula rather than the newer messenger RNA-based doses.
In November, Brazilian authorities paused clinical trials of Sinovac’s CoronaVac due to a reported “serious adverse event.” They later said that the event had “no relation” to the vaccine trial.
Galvez said local vaccine trials will be “limited” to around 1,000 to 4,000 volunteers to fast-track the process. He said findings from clinical trials done abroad will also be evaluated by the local Food and Drug Administration in deciding to approve or reject the use of these doses among Filipinos.
Apart from Sinovac, the vaccine czar also expects to complete talks with Russia’s Gamaleya Institute for the Sputnik V, which earlier said that they can produce doses for the Philippines as early as January if the country places an order for them.
More vaccines coming
Based on Galvez’s roadmap, he expects AstraZeneca vaccines to be shipped to the country within April-June at the earliest. Doses from United States drug makers Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, as well as from the global COVAX facility, may be accessed by the third quarter of 2021 as the best-case scenario.
Galvez added during the government’s Laging Handa briefing that his group is also in talks with China’s Sinopharm, which could also produce vaccines in the next three months.
President Rodrigo Duterte recently allowed Galvez to strike advance supply deals and early payments for vaccines to ensure the Philippines won’t be the last to get the vaccines.
Vaccines, like any medicine, may cause side effects, but most are usually minor and short-lived, such as pain, rashes, headaches or fever. Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said the need to procure vaccines is urgent as it will provide the long-term solution for public health and the overall economy.
Concepcion led a team of more than 30 big businesses who pitched in to buy 2.6 million doses AstraZeneca vaccines, saying they had to make that bet to move the local economy forward.
The FDA has not approved the use of any COVID-19 vaccine in the country, but new rules being pushed by Galvez and the coronavirus task force seek emergency use authorization of vaccines already approved abroad. The executive order from President Rodrigo Duterte is “in process,” Galvez said.
The Sinovac and Sputnik vaccines have been cleared for emergency use in their respective countries. Pfizer and Moderna are “very likely” to be authorized for use by the United States government this month, he added.
Galvez said he recently signed the confidentiality agreement with Pfizer, marking the start of discussions for vaccine supply. He did not disclose yet the unit price of the vaccines as well as the number of doses which the country can buy.
Other US-based drug makers such as Johnson and Johnson and Novavax are under exploratory talks.
“We are looking na magkaroon tayo ng 10, 15 or 20 million vaccines from each of these vaccine makers. Kailangan ang pipiliin aysafe, effective and affordable [We are looking to get 10, 15 or 20 million vaccines from each vaccine makers. We need to choose those that are safe, effective and affordable],” he added. — via Irvin Chua / AdChoiceTV News