MANILA, Philippines — Filipinos will have access to about 56 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from various American pharmaceutical companies by May, the country’s top diplomat in Washington said on Friday, even as procurement issues continued to hound the government’s vaccination program.
Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said Philippine officials started talks in May last year with several US companies that had been developing vaccines against COVID-19 in a bid to make these available to Filipinos as soon as possible.
He said the country’s vaccine supply would be increased to 130 million doses by June. “[Our] two-pronged goal [is to secure] immediate access to vaccine supply for the Filipino people and [open] a pathway for sustainable supply in the longer term through possible comanufacturing with Philippine entities,” Romualdez said in an online forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.
“I am pleased to note that these discussions have been fruitful,” Romualdez said. “We’re doing everything we can as far as reaching out to many of these pharmaceutical companies.”
The ambassador said Novavax, an American pharmaceutical company based in Maryland, committed 30 million doses to the Philippines, while Moderna and Johnson & Johnson would be supplying 20 million and 6 million doses, respectively.
“An agreement with Pfizer, which was the first company we engaged actually, is also forthcoming. We hope to receive very soon doses of their vaccine through the COVAX facility,” Romualdez said, referring to the international pool of coronavirus vaccines led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“We also continue to monitor developments in the vaccine candidates of Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Arcturus Therapeutics to potentially include in the mix of vaccines for the Philippines,” he added.
Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, earlier said that vaccines from Pfizer and Sinovac Biotech are expected to arrive in the country in February through the COVAX pool.
With regard to Sinovac, Galvez estimated that 1 million to 3 million vaccine doses would be available beginning February.
On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration said it had granted emergency use authorization to AstraZeneca. This follows an agreement last month between the UK-based pharmaceutical company and the private sector for the supply of 17 million vaccine doses.
Manila storage site
Also on Friday, Galvez inspected a vaccine storage facility that had been set up at Santa Ana Hospital in Manila.
According to the Manila Public Information Office (MPIO), the facility keeps refrigeration units, including five HYC-390 refrigerators, for AstraZeneca and Sinovac vials, and two minus 25 degrees Celsius biomedical freezers and two minus 30 degrees C biomedical freezers for Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vials.
The MPIO said minus 86 degrees C ultralow temperature freezers were due to be delivered to the hospital for the storage of Pfizer vials.
“We have seen that the City of Manila is ready for the upcoming vaccination,” Galvez said.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said the city would be conducting more simulation exercises to prepare medical personnel and residents for the upcoming vaccination drive. —WITH A REPORT FROM JODEE A. AGONCILLO
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