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Philippine COVID-19 cases nearing 453,000


THE DEPARTMENT of Health (DoH) reported 1,156 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 452,988.

The death toll reached 8,833 after 21 more patients died, while recoveries increased  by 425 to 419,282, it said in a bulletin.

There were 24,873 active cases, 84.7% of which were mild, 6.7% did not show symptoms, 5.6% were critical, 2.8% were severe and 0.3% were moderate.

Davao City reported the highest number of cases at 126, followed by Quezon City at 66, Rizal at 64, Bulacan at 56 and Manila at 38.

DoH said seven duplicates had been removed from the tally, while seven recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Five laboratories failed to submit their data on Dec. 15, it added.

The coronavirus has sickened about 73.8 million and killed 1.6 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

About 51.8 million people have recovered, it said.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III refuted a social media post by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. that someone had bungled a deal to buy 10 million vaccine doses from US drug maker Pfizer.

“There’s no such thing as dropping the ball,” he told an online news briefing. “The negotiations are ongoing.”

Mr. Locsin on Tuesday tweeted that he and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez had secured a deal with Pfizer for the delivery of 10 million vaccine doses by January financed by the World Bank and Asian Development Bank “but somebody dropped the ball.”

Mr. Duque said his office was advised on Sept. 24 to review the deal, adding that he signed it on Oct. 20.

He said he reviewed the papers and sought the advice of lawyers for potentially onerous provisions in the agreement.

“I wanted to make sure that the provisions were not onerous or disadvantageous to the government,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine had not been approved or licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but was authorized for emergency use by people 16 years and older.

Jordan on Monday said it had approved emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, as the US kicked off a mass vaccination drive, according to news wire AFP.

Jordan’s green light for the Pfizer vaccine followed those of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and came six days after Britain launched the world’s first mass inoculation campaign using the vaccine.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. on Monday said the government was expecting to finalize the vaccine procurement deal with Chinese drug maker Sinovac Biotech Ltd. this week.

He added that negotiations continue so the government could meet its March 2021 target to get the vaccines. The government also expects to get a second tranche of vaccines in the latter part of 2021.

Sinovac is the government’s top pick for vaccine orders for its mass immunization program that will start next year. The government seeks to immunize 20 million Filipinos yearly in the next three years.

The government is also in talks with nine more vaccine developers. Other than Sinovac, the Philippines is looking to import vaccines from two other Chinese vaccine makers that are in advanced stages of clinical trials — China National Pharmaceutical Group Co., Ltd. (Sinopharm) and CanSino Biologics.

The private sector, government and UK-based drug maker AstraZeneca have signed a deal for the purchase of 2.6 million coronavirus vaccine doses.

Joey A. Concepcion, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship, told an online briefing last month that half of the vaccines would be given to the private sector and the other half would be donated to the government.

The vaccines were expected to arrive in May or June, he said at that time.

DoH earlier said five participants in the coronavirus clinical trials of the Japanese anti-flu drug Avigan have completed their trials.

Sixteen participants had been recruited as of Dec. 7, nine of whom were ongoing and two withdrew. The clinical trials for Avigan started on Nov. 20.

Japan in April said it would send the vaccine made by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd. to 38 countries, including the Philippines after clinical trials. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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