THE biggest names in the Philippine business community on Friday, November 27, 2020, signed a tripartite agreement for the procurement of 2.6 million doses of the AstraZeneca potential vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. Concepcion III said around 1.5 million Filipinos will benefit from this agreement and half of them would be frontliners from the private sector.
This is the first vaccine procurement deal signed in the Philippines, after President Rodrigo Duterte allowed the signing of advance market commitments (AMC).
Shortly before the signing, however, Department of Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they have asked AstraZeneca to explain the alleged errors in the clinical trials for its vaccine candidate.
She said they were expecting an official statement from the British pharmaceutical company.
"We are waiting for the manufacturer because they have that responsibility," Vergeire said in a virtual press conference Friday.
She said even the Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) and the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) are waiting for AstraZeneca’s explanation.
"That is also their request, that they get more information so that they can further study the implications of this," said Vergeire.
The tripartite deal was signed among Concepcion, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals Philippines Inc. president Lotis Ramin and the donors.
Teresita Sy-Coson, chairperson of BDO Unibank and BDO Foundation that initiated the donation, said in her message that the procurement deal is significant despite the skepticism over the vaccine.
She said this will help protect frontliners in the short term and help the government reach its vaccination target in the medium term.
The government targets to immunize 60 to 75 million Filipinos over the next three years to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19.
Other private sector donors are Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, chairman and CEO of Ayala Corporation; Lance Gokongwei, CEO of JG Summit Holdings Corporation and chairman of Gokongwei Brothers Foundation; Ramon Ang, president and COO of San Miguel Corporation; Enrique Razon, chairman of International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI); and Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation.
Others that pitched in and attended the signing ceremony were the Lopez Group, Philippine National Bank, Philippine Franchise Association, LBC Express, Udenna Corporation, Aboitiz Corporation, AC Health, Penshoppe, Philippine TransMarine Carriers Group, GT Capital Holdings, Wilcon Depot, Magsaysay People Resource Corporation, Yazaki Torres Manufacturing, Filinvest Corporation and EastWest Bank, Jollibee Group, Double Dragon Properties and MerryMart, Mercury Drug Corporation, Seaoil Philippines, Concepcion Industrial Corporation, Bounty Agro Ventures Inc., Century Properties Group, and the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
The vaccines are expected to be delivered in May or June 2021. Each dose costs $5, the lowest price for a potential vaccine against Covid-19.
AstraZeneca has filed an application to conduct clinical trials for its vaccine candidate in the Philippines.
Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, said the Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia being eyed by AstraZeneca for its clinical trials.
He said they were waiting for AstraZeneca to submit their data on its clinical trials.
“You know, we have no way of verifying it until they submit their official documents which we will have to verify based on the data they will present. As I understand it, they are presently evaluating and analyzing where the errors where and why these happened.
He said, however, that he does not foresee any effect on the vaccine’s efficacy.
“It’s just a question of numbers and the basis for such numbers,” he added.
AstraZeneca earlier reported that the vaccine AZD1222 it is developing together with the University of Oxford is “highly effective” in preventing Covid-19 based on an interim analysis of clinical trials in the UK and Brazil.
Researchers found that efficacy is higher when the vaccine is administered in one-and-a-half doses instead of the usual two doses.
Reports alleged that this was established after a batch of volunteers were accidentally given only a half dose initially.
AstraZeneca said the vaccine showed an efficacy of 90 percent when it was given as a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month apart.
Efficacy was 62 percent when given as two full doses at least one month apart.
The combined analysis from both dosing regimens resulted in an average efficacy of 70 percent, the company added.
No hospitalizations or severe cases of the disease were reported in the 131 participants in the clinical trials. (Marites Villamor-Ilano with HDT/SunStar Philippines)