Manila makes advance payment to AstraZeneca for 800,000 COVID-19 vaccines

February 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The City of Manila on Friday said it released a P38.4 million down payment to  AstraZeneca for 800,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Manila PIO in a Facebook post said the amount is a 20% down payment taken from the city's budget.

The Swedish-British drug maker's coronavirus vaccine has an efficacy of 70% and requires two doses per person. The current order placed by Manila would be enough to inoculate 400,000 Manila residents. 

AstraZeneca and Pfizer are also the only coronavirus jabs so far that have received emergency use authorization from local regulators. 

"Fortunately, the national government allowed LGUs to fast-track the procurement process. I am thankful for that," Manila City Mayor Moreno said, referencing a memorandum order signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday allowing local government units to make advance payments of up to 50% to for their vaccine orders.

"The vaccine is coming but we can't let ourselves be complacent," the mayor added said in Filipino. "Let's keep practicing the health protocols mandated by the Department of Health and let's keep refining our mass vaccination simulation exercises."

Manila was among the first cities to enter into a tripartite agreement with the national government and AstraZeneca for 17 million doses of AstraZeneca's jabs. 

Manila residents can pre-register for a coronavirus vaccine on As of Thursday afternoon, Manila PIO said over 88,000 people have pre-registered. 

National vaccination timeline unclear 

As Manila inches closer to acquiring the badly-needed vaccines, the national government's inoculation program is flailing.

Four days past February 15, which authorities previously said was the "indicative date" for the "mini rollout" of Pfizer vaccines to hospitals, there are no jabs on the way and there seems to be no official starting date for the government's inoculation program.

The 600,000 Sinovac vaccines donated by China are also stalled and are unlikely to arrive by the promised date of February 23, Malacañang said Thursday, owing to the lack of emergency use authorization from local regulators.

One of the main causes for the delay, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said earlier this week, is the need for an indemnity program that would shift any liability for the newly-developed vaccines from their manufacturers to the government. He added that the COVAX facility and other suppliers only recently notified the Philippines of this requirement.

Both chambers of Congress are expected to pass on Monday counterpart bills that would create an indemnity fund as well as speed up vaccine procurement in other ways.

The bills also contain provisions that reflect the memorandum order signed by Duterte, allowing LGUs to make advance payments of up to 50% to vaccine suppliers.

— Bella Perez-Rubio 

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