MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The Philippines has sealed its biggest vaccine procurement yet this year after inking a supply agreement with US drugmaker Pfizer for 40 million doses of its COVID-19 jabs, the government said Sunday.
The delivery of the vaccines is expected to begin “after eight weeks starting August” and the shipments will be delivered in bulk, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said in a statement.
“We are very happy to report that the government and the management of Pfizer have finally concluded our negotiations. Secretary Duque and I signed yesterday the supply agreement for the biggest and most decisive deal we had for 2021,” Galvez said.
“The vaccine demand has begun to ease up for many big and rich countries, as most of them have already acquired more than enough vaccines for their population and have vaccinated many of their citizens. This has allowed the manufacturer to commit to us that deliveries, though still to be made in tranches, will be in bulk."
Pfizer's vaccine candidate was the first to be granted emergency use authorization (EUA) in the Philippines, getting the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval on Jan. 14.
The lack then of an indemnity deal, which settles who will shoulder the cost of adverse effects from the vaccine, delayed the arrival of the first Pfizer batch initially expected in mid-February.
The procurement of the 40 million jabs will be funded through a multilateral arrangement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which follows direct disbursement scheme where payments are made directly by the fund manager to the vaccine manufacturer.
“Through this scheme, the Filipino people can be assured that our transactions on vaccine procurement will be transparent, as the funds will not pass through the hands of any government official or agency. Wala pong dumadaan na pera sa amin (No money goes through us),” Galvez said.
Pfizer said in a statement Tuesday it was "deeply honored to work" with the Philippine government, thanking Manila for its trust in the drugmaker's capability to manufacture effective COVID-19 vaccines.
“In the face of this global health crisis, Pfizer’s purpose – breakthroughs that change patients’ lives – has taken on an even greater urgency," said Edilberto Reyes, manager of Pfizer Philippines Country.
"Our goal remains to deliver a global supply of a well-tolerated and effective COVID-19 vaccine for many people around the world, as quickly as we can,” said Sean Marett, chief business and chief commercial officer at BioNTech, which is the partner of Pfizer.
The Philippines has so far secured some 113 million doses from five manufacturers following the latest agreement, according to him.
Of the total, 26 million are from Sinovac, 10 million are from Gamaleya Institute, 20 million doses are from Moderna, 17 million doses are from AstraZeneca, and 40 million doses are from Pfizer.
Some 44 million COVID-19 vaccine doses are also expected to arrive from global alliance COVAX Facility, Galvez said.
Around 16 million doses from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson are still under negotiation, he added.
Galvez, meantime, called on local governments to prepare as Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have storage temperature requirements of -80 to -60 degree centigrade while Moderna and Sputnik require -20.
“We again emphasize for LGUs to ensure third party logistics and cold chain service providers for very sensitive vaccines like Pfizer, Moderna and Sputnik V. We don’t want any vaccine to be wasted because of spoilage and mishandling,” he said.
“We intend to deploy the Pfizer, Sputnik V and Moderna vaccines as soon as possible and distribute it even to rural areas and communities. However, this will not be possible if the receiving LGU is not ready to handle these types of vaccines."
The scheduled delivery of Pfizer and Moderna will coincide with the opening of the national immunization program to the general public, including those aged 12 to 15, according to Galvez.
The vaccination of children might be conducted in the later part of the year as adults who are more vulnerable to the disease remain a priority and the country increases its vaccine inventory, he said.
The Philippines aims to vaccinate at least 58 million individuals this year to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus. A total of 8,050,711 jabs have been administered nationwide as of Friday since the country began its COVID-19 vaccination program in March, government said.
The country as of Saturday has recorded 1,353,220 coronavirus infections, of which 59,439 remain active and 23,538 were deaths.