MANILA (UPDATE)- Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said Wednesday Philippine officials, including himself, are asking other countries, particularly the US and Israel, for access to unused or leftover COVID-19 vaccines.
Galvez said Philippine Ambassador to US Jose Manuel Romualdez is in talks with American officials on their unused stock of AstraZeneca-Oxford jabs, amid low vaccine supplies in the Philippines.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has also appealed to Israel for excess vaccines, among other countries, he added.
"Sumulat na nga po si Secretary Duque through diplomatic channels na 'yung mga hindi nagagamit na AstraZeneca. Pati sa Israel po sumulat na po kami ng letter of intent," he said in a public briefing.
(Health Secretary Duque has written through diplomatic channels asking for unused AstraZeneca jabs. We have also sent a letter of intent to Israel.)
The White House earlier said the US would release up to 60 million doses of the British-made vaccine to other countries as they become available.
AstraZeneca has not yet been authorized for US use by its Food and Drug Administration.
Israel also said earlier it no longer wants its pending AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries, baring its intent to discuss with the British drugmaker if they could be sent somewhere else.
"We are trying to find the best solution. After all, we don't want (the vaccines) to get here and have to throw them into the trash," Israel’s pandemic coordinator Nachman Ash said.
Both the US and Israel did not elaborate further on their intentions, amid reports of rare blood clots in some individuals who received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Due to this issue, the Philippines had briefly suspended the use of the UK jab for those below 60 years old, before its resumption for the country's inoculation program.
The Philippines has received 525,600 AstraZeneca doses, almost all of which have been administered. Its own FDA earlier said the country's next delivery of the UK-developed vaccine might arrive in May.
Despite a billion dollars worth of loans from various organizations in 2020 to boost the Philippines' COVID-19 war chest, authorities said only 3.525 million COVID-19 shots have been delivered to the country, as of posting.
The Philippines' total number of COVID-19 cases earlier breached the 1 million mark, with more than 17,000 deaths and over 935,000 recoveries recorded.
Officials said at least 1.5 million people have been inoculated since the vaccine drive kicked off in the country on March 1.
Galvez earlier said they aim to vaccinate 70 million people or two-thirds of the Philippine population this year to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.
The Philippines has one of Asia's worst COVID-19 outbreaks and has been slower than most of its Southeast Asian neighbors in securing vaccine supplies.— With a report from Reuters