Editorial: Covid-19 vaccines make progress

DESPITE the issues last year on the Covid-19 vaccine procurement of the Philippine government, it is now making some progress in the first of 2021.

National Policy Against Covid-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said on January 6 that the government hopes to secure 148 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine this year. It is already in advanced stages of negotiations with six Covid-19 vaccine developers.

He said the government is currently in talks with AstraZeneca, Novavax, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac, and Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology (Gamaleya Institute).

To date, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the application of Clover Biopharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Johnson & Johnson) for the conduct of clinical trials for a coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine candidate in the Philippines.

Gamaleya Institute, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca have applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).

Galvez said the national government is hoping to vaccinate around 50 million to 70 million individuals this year. Healthcare workers and members of vulnerable sectors will be prioritized in the national vaccination program.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on January 7 that Metro Manila, Region 4-A (Calabarzon), Cebu, and Davao will be prioritized for having high Covid-19 cases.

President Rodrigo Duterte has also approved the tripartite agreement among the national government, LGUs, and vaccine manufacturers.

"As we negotiate with these vaccine makers and place our orders for the Philippines, the tripartite agreements with the LGUs will urge pharmaceutical companies to expand their allocation for our country. By factoring in the orders of local governments in our negotiations with these pharmaceutical companies, securing deals with them would be easier," Galvez said on January 7.

Local government units (LGUs) have started to set aside funds for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines. Four LGUs are budgeting around a billion pesos for Covid-19 vaccines: Caloocan City (P1.125 billion), Makati City (P1 billion), Quezon City (P1 billion), and Taguig City (P1 billion).

Davao City, meanwhile, is also making some progress in the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine. City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio on January 8 said there is "no limit" for the city when it comes to spending for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine.

The city government also targets to at least inoculate 1.2 million residents out of its estimated population of 1.8 million. This is in order for the city to achieve "herd immunity." To be able to achieve its goal, the city is eyeing to source Covid-19 vaccine from multiple sources.

"Assuming na tag two doses ni nga bakuna, walay makahatag og (Assuming that the approved vaccine will require two doses, no company can provide) 2.4 million doses. Walay makadeliver og ingon ana to a single city by any vaccine maker sa pagkakaron (No vaccine maker can commit to producing that number to a single city as of now)," Duterte-Carpio said.

At present, the city government has formally started its negotiations with AstraZeneca. The mayor said the city was able to secure AstraZeneca's commitment to supply vaccines to the city.

The 19th City Council, on January 8, also approved an ordinance authorizing the city mayor to enter into and sign for and on behalf of the City Government the multilateral agreement between AstraZeneca, Philippine government, Department of Health, and city government for the procurement and acquisition of AZD1222 Vaccine.

The recent progress in the acquisition of Covid-19 vaccine in the country gives us a glimmer of hope this 2021. While it may still be far, at least, there is an assurance that the pandemic will somehow end soon and we can return to what we have considered normal.


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