MANILA — Filipinos should refrain from anticipating COVID-19 shots from US-based Pfizer anytime soon, an official leading the vaccination drive said on Monday.
A negotiation for the Philippines to get Pfizer's jabs is "ongoing", including an indemnity agreement that protects vaccine makers from suit in case of adverse effects, said Carlito Galvez Jr, chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
"Sila naman ang hinihintay natin kasi matagal na tayong nagsabi na iyon na 'yong indemnity agreement namin. Sila talaga, nasa kanila ang bola," said Galvez, who is also the country's vaccine czar.
(We are waiting for them because we have long informed them of our indemnity agreement. The ball is in their court.)
"Iyong supply ng Pfizer, talagang in demand. We should not expect na iyong Pfizer e darating sa madaling panahon. Halos lahat ng bansa, ang kinukuha nila iyong Pfizer at saka Moderna, and also AstraZeneca," he told reporters in a televised briefing.
(The supply of Pfizer is really in demand. We should not expect that Pfizer will arrive soon. Almost all countries get Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.)
The Philippines will get Pfizer shots from vaccine-sharing COVAX Facility in the second quarter of the year. Shots that the country will buy from Pfizer could arrive in the third or fourth quarter, said Galvez.
COVAX was supposed to send 117,000 Pfizer doses in mid-February, but the lack of an indemnification agreement delayed their arrival indefinitely.
Pfizer did not mention its requirement of this deal in initial negotiations, and only informed Philippine officials of this in mid-February, said Galvez.
"That's why nabigla kami noong sinabi nila na we need to have an annex," he said. "Mayroon silang pinapatanggal na provisions that we cannot do, considering that this is only our protection kung just in case nagkaroon ng gross negligence."
(That's why we were surprised when they said we need to have an annex. They want some provisions that we cannot do, considering that this is only our protection just in case there is gross negligence.)
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law that would set up an indemnification fund to compensate those who would suffer from adverse vaccine effects.
Through this law, Pfizer would be "fully immune" against any litigation because the Philippine government will take care of the indemnification of people who experience adverse effect from the vaccine, said Galvez.
"We are very proud of that law but we cannot give any more because binigyan na nga po natin lahat ng gusto ng mga pharmaceuticals," said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.
(We have given everything that pharmaceutical groups want.)
"Inaasahan pa rin po sana natin na dumating ang Pfizer, pero kung talagang hindi sapat ang batas natin, we have done the best that we could. Si Secretary Galvez, sinisigurado naman that we will have enough vaccines for all Filipinos," he added.
(We expect that Pfizer will still arrive, but if our law is not enough, we have done the best that we could. Secretary Galvez is ensuring that we will have enough vaccines for all Filipinos.)
The Philippines on Sunday received 600,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses that China donated from Beijing-based drug maker Sinovac.
One more million Sinovac shots and 3.5 million doses from Britain's AstraZeneca are expected to arrive this month, said Galvez. This means the Philippines will have 5.1 million jabs by the end of March, he said.
Health workers are on top of the priority in the vaccine distribution.
Some medical frontliners on Monday received Sinovac jabs. Galvez, Food and Drug Administration Director General Eric Domingo, and Philippine General Hospital chief Dr. Gerardo Legaspi were also among the first to get vaccinated.