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Gov’t to sign contracts for 30M vaccine doses

By Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Charmaine A. Tadalan, Reporters

THE PHILIPPINE government is expected to sign separate deals for 30 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from two drug makers.

It will sign an agreement with UK-based company AstraZeneca Plc on Thursday for 20 million more vaccine doses, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr.  told an online news briefing on Wednesday.

The state is also in the final stage of negotiations with Moderna, Inc. for at least 10 million doses of its vaccines, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel G. Romualdez said in a statement.

The government may also buy 10 million more doses that may be delivered starting in the middle of the year, he said.

In November, the government and private sector signed a deal with AstraZeneca for the purchase of 2.6 million doses of its vaccines.

After the signing, local government units (LGUs) the National Government and vaccine maker will sign a tripartite supply agreement, Mr. Galvez said.

“It is the local government units’ responsibility to administer the vaccines and the National Government will be in charge of the supply for cold chain requirements,” he said on mixed English and Filipino.

Several local government units have allotted funds for vaccines and are seeking to buy from AstraZeneca.

Meanwhile, Mr. Galvez said the government expects the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the vaccine made by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd by February 20. The government will order 25 million doses from the drug maker.

“We know how many doses will arrive every month,” he said in Filipino, adding that 50,000 doses will be here next month.

Mr. Galvez said Sinovac is still consolidating the results of its phase three clinical trials in Brazil and Turkey. It is also waiting for an emergency use authorization for general use in China, he added.

Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology and Pfizer, Inc. have also filed for emergency use with the local Food and Drug Administration.

Meanwhile, Mr. Romualdez said ICTSI would pay for the shipping of vaccines from Moderna’s manufacturing facility in Spain. “I welcome the pledge of support of the private sector led by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.’s Enrique Razon in shipping and distributing the vaccines.”

Mr. Galvez told senators on Monday the government was expecting to start the rollout of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines in February under the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility. About 40 million doses are expected from COVAX, which could inoculate as many as 30 million people.

The Senate will resume hearings on the government’s immunization program on Friday. Senators want to know how the state can buy 148 million doses by year-end to cover at least 50 million Filipinos.

“We’ve not been able to cross all important points,” Senator Vicente C. Sotto III told an online news briefing. “There are still many issues that we’d like to discuss.”

He said the private sector and local government units had been invited to the hearing.

Senators have asked the Health department and other agencies in the past hearing to allow private companies and local governments to directly order vaccines instead of routing these through the National Government.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,453 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 492,700. The death toll rose by 146 to 9,699 while recoveries increased by 458,523, it said in a bulletin.

There were 24,478 active cases, 84.9% of which were mild, 6.1% did not show symptoms, 5.5% were critical, 3% were severe and 0.50% were moderate.

Quezon City reported the highest number of new cases at 95, followed by Cavite at 66, Manila at 54, Davao City at 50 and Cebu City at 44.

DoH said 11 duplicates had been removed from the tally, while 44 recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Four laboratories failed to submit their data on Jan. 12.

About 6.7 million Filipinos have been tested as of Jan. 11, according to DoH’s tracker website.

The coronavirus has sickened about 92.1 million and killed about two million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO). About 65.9 million people have recovered, it said.

The OCTA Research Team from the University of the Philippines on Tuesday said Metro Manila is likely to experience a fresh surge in coronavirus infections in the coming weeks after people violated social distancing rules during the holidays.

It also said that there was an upward trend in cases, with the virus reproduction number in Metro Manila increasing past 1 to 1.17 as of Jan. 10, meaning an infected person can infect another person.

The last time it was above 1 was on Dec. 21 and had remained below that during the holiday season after testing was reduced by more than 40%.

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