Govt eyes 60M doses of Covid vaccines by 2021


(The Manila Times is reposting this story earlier on Tuesday to include Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque Jr.’s clarifications on statements attributed to Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the designated vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force against Covid-19 — Ed.)

THE Philippine government is now in talks with four vaccine developers for the purchase of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines for 60 million Filipinos.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. disclosed this during a televised meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and his Cabinet late Monday night.

Galvez, who is concurrently the chief implementer of the National Task Force against Covid-19, said the government might be able to secure vaccines by 2021 if negotiations with manufacturers will be successful.

Galvez bared the Philippine government was now in talks with Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson and Pfizer.

From the four pharmaceutical firms, Galvez finds the offer of Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Pfizer to be favorable.

Galvez reported to the President that negotiations with AstraZeneca have been good. He said the vaccine has the lowest price which is at $5, among other vaccines.

Once the negotiations with AstraZeneca are concluded, the country could get from the firm 20 million doses of vaccine by the second quarter of 2021.

Galvez said the government is planning to ink the memorandum of understanding with the vaccine maker before November 30.

Funding sources
Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez 3rd, who is present in the meeting, said some P73.2 billion will be enough for the purchase Covid-19 vaccines for 60 million Filipinos.

Dominguez said the Philippine government will source this from borrowings from multilateral agencies, domestic sources of financing and bilateral sources.

Specifically, Dominguez said about P40 billion will be borrowed from the Asian Development Bank and World Bank, P20 billion from the Land Bank of the Philippines, the Development Bank of the Philippines and other government-owned -and -controlled corporations while the remaining P13.2 billion will come from the countries manufacturing the vaccines.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd said 60 million would be enough for the country to achieve herd immunity, which according to World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) standards should be from 60 to 70 percent of the total population.

“Ang herd immunity po, Mr. President, is anywhere from 60 to 70 percent according to the World Health Organization. So if we’re able to reach that, we’re going to pretty much arrest the spread of this and mawawala ‘yung Covid-19 sa atin pong lipunan (The herd immunity, Mr. President is anywhere from 60 to 70 percent according to the World Health Organization. So if we’re able to reach that, we’re going to pretty much arrest the spread of this and end Covid-19.)”

The Philippines has a total population of nearly 110 million people.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque clarified that the government intends to purchase Covid-19 vaccines for 60 million people, regardless of the number of doses.

This is to correct a report earlier in the day which quoted Galvez as saying that the government was eyeing the distribution of 60 million doses to Filipinos.

“We had to specify Filipinos kasi may ilang mga bakuna two doses, may ilang bakuna one dose, basta it will be enough for 60 million Filipinos (We had to specify Filipinos because the other vaccines would be two doses, the others, one dose, it will be enough for 60 million Filipinos,” he said.

NCR, Davao, Cebu priority
According to Galvez, deployment of Covid-19 vaccines will be geographical and sectoral, at the “epcienters” of the infections where the results will have the biggest impact on the economy.

These epicenters are in Metro Manila, Davao, Cebu, Bacolod, among other areas. Priority sectors include the urban poor, vulnerable, soldiers and essential workers, according to Galvez.

2 million doses
International Container Terminal Services Inc.(ICTSI) Executive Vice President Christian Gonzalez in a virtual press briefing organized by Malacañang on Tuesday said the private sector will shoulder the cost of two million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines for one million Filipinos.

“Under what will be a tri-party agreement, ang mangyayari dito (what will happen here) is private sector will shoulder the cost not only the 50 percent deposit for the AstraZeneca vaccine, but likewise the remaining 50 percent once vaccine is delivered, which is expected to be sometime in the second quarter of 2021,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said 50 percent of the vaccine beneficiaries would be government employees while the other 50 percent would be employees in the private sector to be determined by the donors.

“This vaccine will be purely for the use of DoH (Department of Health), under what is called equitable distribution, to be determined by the government; the other 50 percent will be for the private entity to determine, and naturally one of the targets that we will have of course will be our own employees,” he said.

Galvez thanked businessmen Enrique Razon Jr., Lucio Tan, Ramon Ang and the Sy siblings, among others, for placing orders of Covid-19 vaccines through advance market commitments.

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