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Philippines inks deal for 20 million Moderna vaccine doses

The Philippine government and the private sector have sealed an agreement with Moderna, Inc. for 20 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine, according to the presidential palace, making it the country’s largest vaccine supply deal to date.

The government secured 13 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, while private firms led by International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Chairman Enrique K. Razon Jr. will get 7 million doses for their workers, vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said in a statement.

“We would also like to thank Mr Patrick Bergstedt and the whole Moderna Team for keeping up with their commitment in providing 20 million ‘doses of hope’ for 10 million Filipinos,” Mr. Galvez, chief implementer of the country’s pandemic plan, said.

Mr. Galvez said the signing of the tripartite agreement boosts Manila’s goal of having a steady supply of vaccines this year.

“This is part of our goal to vaccinate 70 million of our adult population and recover the economy from the pandemic,” he said.

The government started negotiating with the US-based drugmaker after its two-dose vaccine, which has a 94.5% efficacy rate, was authorized for emergency use in the United States.

Moderna, however, has yet to secure an emergency use authorization from Manila’s drug regulator.

“We are honored to be part of this enormous and noble endeavor to help our people recover from the impact of pandemic and to catalyze a return to growth for our nation,” ICTSI Foundation said on behalf of the so-called Moderna Vaccine Buyer’s Group.

There were no details on which companies are getting the Moderna vaccines.

In a televised press briefing on Friday, Mr. Galvez said the country would take delivery of Moderna vaccines in the second quarter, along with about two million vaccine vials from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

Massive vaccinations will be held from May to June, he added.

Mr. Galvez earlier said Manila would receive at least 1.4 million more doses of Sinovac vaccines this month. Of the total, about 400,000 vials were donated from Beijing, and the rest were paid for by the government.

About 900,000 more doses of the shots developed by British drugmaker AstraZeneca, Plc. and secured under a global initiative for equal vaccine access will also arrive in late March or early April, he said.

The shots developed by America’s Novavax, Inc., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc, Pfizer Inc, and Russia’s Gamaleya Institute are also included in the government’s coronavirus vaccine portfolio.

The Health department reported a record 7,103 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. This brought the total number of cases in the Philippines to 648,066.


FIRMS NOT ALLOWED TO IMPORT VACCINES DIRECTLY

Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said in a Viber message on Friday that private firms are not allowed to import COVID-19 vaccines directly due to existing laws and the request of pharmaceutical companies that make the vaccines.

“[There are] two reasons [why]: first, the pharmas insist on the government providing the indemnity, second, [there is] the COVID 19 Vaccination Program Law,” he said when asked if he supports the proposal of Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) to allow private companies to import vaccines themselves,” he said.

“Moreover the requirement by pharma companies of government indemnity necessitates government involvement in purchases by the private sector.”

Republic Act 11525 signed on Feb. 26 allows DOH and the National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 to directly procure vaccines from manufacturers.

For local government units and other entities who want to buy the vaccines, the DOH and NTF have been tasked to negotiate on their behalf. – with Beatrice M. Laforga

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