MANILA (UPDATE) - The Philippines will get an initial batch of 600,000 COVID-19 vaccine shots from China's Sinovac Biotech on Feb. 23, Malacañang said on Thursday.
"Ang bakuna po na Sinovac na galing naman sa China, nakaukit na po sa bato ang pagdating. Ito po ay a-23 ng Pebrero," Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters in an online briefing.
(The arrival of the Sinovac vaccine from China is now set in stone. This will be on the 23rd of February.)
Beijing is donating the vaccine batch, and 100,000 of the doses will go to the Philippine military, said Roque.
Roque and Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr., the country's COVID-19 vaccine czar, said the delivery of vaccine supplies under the COVAX Facility, which include those from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, will be delayed until the third or fourth week of the month.
"The promise of the (World Health Organization) before is 2nd week. But there are documents that needed to be submitted before its arrival. Medyo ma-delay. Mag-slide tayo ng another week," Galvez said in a Senate hearing.
(It will be delayed a bit... by another week.)
There is no tentative arrival date yet for the first batch of 117,000 Pfizer shots from the COVAX Facility, which aims to ensure equitable access to the vaccines, said Roque.
"Inaasahan po natin, hindi matatapos ang buwan ng Pebrero at darating din ang paunang shipment galing sa COVAX Facility," he said.
(We expect that February will not end without an initial shipment from the COVAX Facility.)
VACCINE CZAR SAYS NO SUPPLY AGREEMENT YET
Galvez said the country has no supply agreement yet with vaccine makers, and is instead holding "term sheets."
“We are finalizing the supply agreement with Sinovac and Novavax and also Moderna. Iyong tatlo po na iyon ang tinatapos po natin na supply agreement. But no supply agreement signed yet,” he told senators.
(These are the 3 vaccine makers with which we are finalizing supply agreements.)
Term sheets can be considered as “locked agreements”, said Galvez, who is also the deputy chief implementer of the National Task Force against COVID-19.
Pfizer's vaccine already has an emergency use authorization in the Philippines, as well as AstraZeneca's. Sinovac does not.
“It (Sinovac vaccine delivery) will be stored until such time that it is approved. If it is not issued an EUA, then it will be sent back,” Roque said.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Eric Domingo said Russia's Gamaleya Institute is finalizing the documents it needed to submit for emergency use clearance.
Officials earlier said that China's vaccine donation will not impact its maritime dispute with the Philippines in the South China Sea.
“Wala pong relasyon iyan because itong pandemic po (those have no relation because the pandemic) is governed by the laws of humanity and the dictates of public conscience,” said Roque.
President Rodrigo Duterte has forged friendlier relations with China to attract investors and economic aid, temporarily setting aside the South China Sea issue.
The Philippines has recorded 543,282 confirmed COVID-19 cases, as of Thursday, including 31,478 active infections, 11,469 deaths, and 500,335 recoveries.
Its first case, recorded on Jan. 30 last year, involved a Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan City, China where the disease is believed to have first emerged. Her companion, a 44-year-old Chinese man, is the second case who succumbed to the disease on Feb. 1 last year, marking the first coronavirus-related death outside China and in the Philippines.