MANILA - The country's private sector is prepared to provide government a portion of its COVID-19 vaccine orders if jabs from the COVAX facility won't arrive on time for the second inoculation of Filipinos who received their first shots.
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said the private sector will be able to provide for more than 500,000 Filipinos if AstraZeneca jabs from the UN-led initiative won't arrive in June.
The rollout of AstraZeneca jabs in the Philippines began in March. The Food and Drug Administration has recommended a 4-12 week interval between the first and the second doses.
“Their worry is that if COVAX does not deliver sometime May, what will happen to their doses?” Concepcion said at a virtual summit.
“They requested and asked me if we can help them with 500,000 doses for those who took already their first dose. Of course, we said yes, we will support them. That is if the vaccines of AstraZeneca from COVAX do not arrive in May or June,” he added.
Concepcion said that according to AstraZeneca, it will begin its shipment in June, which consists of around 6 million doses purchased by the private sector, and 11 million doses purchased by local government units.
“What I can say with certainty is that the AstraZeneca vaccines are sure to arrive without any delay anymore,” he noted.
Despite delays in vaccine arrivals due to global supply issues, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. is “confident” the Philippines will be able to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 by yearend with the help of the private sector.
“For this year, our country is expecting the arrival of at least 148 million doses from seven manufacturers in our vaccine portfolio,” Galvez said, noting that the figure does not cover doses from the COVAX facility.
According to ABS-CBN'S Data Analytics Head Edson Guido, with the current pace of COVID-19 vaccinations, it would take more than a decade for the government to reach its target of inoculating 70 million Filipinos.
But Galvez reiterated that once the bulk of vaccines start to arrive in the country in the middle of the year, the Philippines can “significantly scale up vaccinations”.
As of April 29, the Philippines has received only over 4 million vaccine doses. Of this, 3.5 million are made by Chinese vaccine manufacturer Sinovac, while the remaining 525,600 doses are made by British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca.
The Philippines needs at least 140 million doses of vaccines to achieve herd immunity.
The country has one of Asia's worst COVID-19 outbreaks and has been slower than most of its Southeast Asian neighbors in securing vaccine supplies.