MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines will sign a deal with British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca on Thursday for up to 20 million additional doses of its coronavirus vaccine, the country’s vaccine czar said.
“Tomorrow, we will sign a tripartite agreement for more or less 20 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. We are not lagging behind,” said Carlito Galvez Jr, a former military general in charge of the government’s vaccination procurement effort.
The national government, local officials and private companies are working together to secure AstraZeneca shots, which are 70% effective on average.
“After the signing tomorrow, there will be a tripartite supply agreement that will be signed by the national government, local government units and vaccine maker. The responsibility of the LGU is to administer the vaccine, while the national government [is responsible] for supply and cold chain requirement,” he added.
Galvez said negotiations are ongoing with AstraZeneca for the shots to arrive this quarter.
The national government earlier signed a deal with firm for 2.6 million doses in November last year, which was made possible through the donations of some private companies.
Over the past few days, several local government officials signed agreements to procure COVID-19 vaccines for their constituents, raising concerns that such initiatives might send the message to lower-income cities and municipalities they would have to do the same.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is the second cheapest jab at P610 in two doses among those being eyed for procurement and it only needs to be stored at around 2°C, the standard temperature that is within the existing cold chain system in the country.
Its vaccine candidate is awaiting authorization for emergency use in the country after sending to local regulators its application last week.
Aside from AstraZeneca, the government also secured 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine developed by US-based Novavax and Serum Institute of India, and 25 million shots from China's Sinovac.
Galvez said vaccines from Pfizer, which will be obtained through the COVAX facility, is expected to arrive in the country as early as February. This, however, depends on whether the United Nations-backed facility will approve the country’s submission for eligibility list for early rollout.
The Philippines aims to vaccinate 50 to 70 million Filipinos against COVID-19 in 2021 alone but it depends on the global supply, which had been mostly procured by wealthy nations. — Gaea Katreena Cabico