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Government in talks with Indian drug maker for Covovax orders

THE PHILIPPINE government and Serum Institute of India Ptv. Ltd. are in talks for the supply of 30 million doses of coronavirus vaccine Covovax.

The vaccine, which is in the third phase of clinical trials, could become available in the third quarter of next year, once a supply agreement is reached, the Indian drug maker said in a statement on Sunday.

“If and when the negotiations are concluded successfully, this would be a wonderful development for us Filipinos,” Luningning Villa, medical director at Faberco Life Sciences, said in the statement.

Faberco is the local partner of Serum Institute, which is manufacturing Covovax for US biotechnology company Novavax, Inc. with which it developed the vaccine.

Ms. Villa, who met with vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr last week, said she expects the talks to be completed by year-end.

About 15,000 patients have participated in phase three trials of Covovax in the United Kingdom and 30,000 in the US and Mexico.

Initial phases of the clinical trials were conducted in Australia, South Africa and India.

The Serum Institute last month authorized Faberco, a distributor of specialized healthcare products, to represent the Philippines for the supply of the coronavirus vaccine.

Faberco has partnered with the Indian drug maker for key vaccine programs such as inactivated polio, rotavirus, pneumococcal conjugate and COVID-19 vaccines.

Ms. Villa told BusinessWorld last month Covovax was expected to be “logistically manageable” in terms of cold chain requirements because it does not require deep freezing during storage and transport.

The government plans to immunize 20 million Filipinos yearly in the next three years.

The private sector, the government, and UK-based drug maker AstraZeneca Plc have signed a deal for the purchase of 2.6 million doses of vaccines, expected to arrive in as early as May.

The Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,754 coronavirus infections on Sunday, bringing the total to 459,789.

The death toll rose to 8,947 after 36 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 8,080 to 429,134, it said in a bulletin.

There were 21,708 active cases, 81.3% of which were mild, 8.7% did not show symptoms, 6.4% were critical, 3.2% were severe and 0.37% were moderate.

Quezon City reported the highest number of new cases at 163, followed by Rizal province at 104, Benguet and Laguna at 83 each and Bulacan at 61.

DoH said nine duplicates had been removed from the tally, while 25 recovered cases were reclassified as deaths. Twelve laboratories failed to submit their data on Dec. 19.

The coronavirus has sickened about 76.6 million and killed 1.7 million people globally, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

About 53.8 million people have recovered, it said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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