With gov't submission of requirements, arrival date for AstraZeneca jabs may be set this week

Philstar
February 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The delivery date of coronavirus vaccines developed by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca to the Philippines may be finalized this week, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

This, after the Philippine government met all the requirements to receive AstraZeneca jabs from the WHO-led COVAX facility.

“I understand the Department of Health supplied all letters necessary to COVAX initiative to access early rollout of AstraZeneca vaccines. My understanding is there’s no requirement in the case of AstraZeneca for further exchange of letters between the manufacturer and the Philippines,” said Rabindra Abeyashinge, WHO country representative.

The Philippines is expected to receive around 5.5 million to 9.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine this year.

“What we're looking at now is accelerating the delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines at least a part of the shipment to the Philippines,” he said. 

The WHO official also said the “impasse” between the Philippines and American vaccine manufacturer Pfizer on the delivery of much awaited COVID-19 shots may be resolved soon after the government received a side letter from the drugmaker. A side letter is a document used as a supplementary to a contract.

“We believe that within the day today or tomorrow or whenever the legal teams have cleared those documents, we will see a resolution of that impasse and maybe there will be room to hear about when potential vaccine deliveries can happen,” Abeyasinghe said.

Three vaccines have been approved for emergency use in the Philippines—Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Sinovac—but so far none have been delivered and the government is under criticism over the delayed vaccine rollout.

Officials said the delivery of 117,000 doses of vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech faced delays due to requirements such as indemnification.

‘No link to Dengvaxia’

Abeyasinghe also said the requirement of COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers for the Philippines to submit indemnification agreements is not connected to the country’s experience with Dengvaxia.

Last week, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said drugmakers were concerned with the country’s previous experiences with anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. The government submitted indemnification agreements to access vaccine doses through the COVAX facility.

But Abeyasinghe clarified that the “requirements and the standard agreements are common to all countries.”

“They’re not specific to the Philippines and they’re not related to any issue that happened in the country relating to Dengvaxia or anything else,” Abeyasinghe said.

“The indemnification clause is something manufacturers are demanding from every country irrespective of whether they are buying from manufacturers or whether they are receiving vaccines through the COVAX facility or some other mechanism,” he added.

The controversy was highly politicized despite the lack of conclusive evidence that the vaccine developed by French firm Sanofi Pasteur caused the deaths of children inoculated with it during the previous administration.

The fiasco also eroded public trust in life-saving vaccines. A survey of pollster Pulse Asia released last month showed nearly half of Filipinos would opt out of inoculation. — Gaea Katreena Cabico 


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