Sinovac says to deliver COVID-19 vaccine to Philippines 'very soon'


Posted at Feb 24 2021 06:54 PM | Updated as of Feb 25 2021 02:21 AM

Sinovac says to deliver COVID-19 vaccine to Philippines 'very soon' 1
Vials of the Sinovac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine are pictured at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand Feb. 24, 2021. Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters 

MANILA — China-based pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech said on Wednesday it would deliver COVID-19 shots to the Philippines "very soon", after its product was granted emergency use authorization (EUA) in the Southeast Asian nation.

The vaccine maker is working "very closely" with the Chinese customs bureau to clear the shipment of 600,000 doses Beijing is donating to Manila, said Sinovac general manager Helen Yang.

"We are working very hard with our Philippines counterpart to prepare for the delivery. The product has already been prepared, so, we just need to finalize the procedures with the Custom and then we can fix the date of the flight," she said in a Malacañang press briefing.

"We will try our best to see whether we can deliver the products in this week or next week. It will be very soon," she added.

The arrival of the vaccine was "etched in stone" to happen on Tuesday, Feb. 23, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque earlier said. But it was delayed because, according to him, China wanted the Philippines to grant it first an EUA, which it got only on Feb. 22. 

Philippine authorities are assessing which of the priority sectors in the country's vaccination program will receive the 500,000 doses of Sinovac's vaccine, after the country's Food and Drug Administration noted that the product yielded a low efficacy rate of 50.4% when used on health care workers exposed to COVID-19 during its trial.

Health workers top the priority recipients of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, followed by senior citizens, those with comorbidities, and then, essential workers in the public and private sectors and the uniformed personnel.

The other 100,000 doses, meanwhile, are specifically allotted to the Department of National Defense.

Along with Sinovac, the Philippine drug regulator has cleared the COVID-19 shots of US-based Pfizer and the United Kingdom's AstraZeneca. 

Despite having one of highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Asia, the Philippines has not yet received any vaccine with which it hopes to inoculate up to 70 million people or two-thirds of the population this year. 

The lack of an indemnity deal, which settles the question of who should pay in case of adverse effects from the vaccine, had delayed the arrival of 117,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine under the COVAX Facility, initially expected in mid-February. 

"Ang huling nakalap ko po ay mayroon na lang kaunti pang pinababago doon sa indemnity agreement," said Roque. 

"Pero sa akin nga po, as far as the President is concerned, tuloy na po ang pagbabakuna using Sinovac."

(The last information I received is that there is just a bit that should be changed in the indemnity agreement. But as far as the President is concerned, the vaccination will start using Sinovac.) 

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