MANILA — The Philippines has completed all requirements for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines being supplied by the COVAX Facility, a World Health Organization official said on Tuesday.
The COVAX Facility, of which WHO is a member, is an initiative that aims for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.
“I also want to update you that the Philippines has met all the requirements necessary for accessing the AstraZeneca vaccines,” WHO Country Representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said during a briefing with the Department of Health.
He confirmed around 5.5 million to 9.2 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine, which the Philippine drug regulator already approved for emergency use, have been earmarked for the country.
The government and the WHO previously said that the Philippines is set to receive AstraZeneca vaccines within the first quarter of the year.
Only Pfizer and AstraZeneca have been included in the WHO’s emergency use listing, making it easier for member countries to approve the said companies’ COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use.
“What we are now looking at is accelerating delivery of those AstraZeneca vaccines, at least a part of that shipment to the Philippines,” Abeyasinghe said.
He said Philippine officials have already signed the indemnification agreement with COVAX for the AstraZeneca vaccines.
“I understand that the Department of Health has supplied all the letters necessary to the COVAX initiative to access the early rollout of those AstraZeneca vaccines,” he said.
Unlike Pfizer, which required a separate indemnification deal with its recipient countries, Abeyasinghe said, “my understanding is that there is no requirement in the case of AstraZeneca for further exchange of letters between the manufacturer and the Philippine government.”
“We are optimistic that before the end of this week, we will hear from the COVAX initiative on likely delivery dates for AstraZeneca vaccines to the Philippines,” he said.
Asked if the Philippines is affected by the report that AstraZeneca is no longer taking additional vaccine orders, the WHO official said the Philippines’ vaccines from the COVAX Facility should not be affected.
He explained that AstraZeneca’s facility in South Korea is dedicated to exclusively manufacturing the COVAX Facility’s vaccine requirements while other countries are relying on the company’s facilities in Europe and in India.
“And what is earmarked for the Philippines will be coming from South Korea. So, we still remain optimistic that we will receive the AstraZeneca vaccines within the timeframes that we were talking about,” he said.
The Philippines was supposed to receive vaccines from Pfizer through the COVAX Facility this month. But it was delayed due to the company’s requirement for a separate indemnification agreement.
The delay pushed back the scheduled immunization for health workers, who are being prioritized by the government.
The Philippines has so far recorded 564,865 confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which, 29,817 are currently battling the disease.