MANILA — The Department of Health is in talks with Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech for the procurement of modified COVID-19 vaccines that target the omicron variant and the original form of the virus.
According to DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire, the agency met with Moderna last month to discuss these so-called "bivalent" vaccines.
"We have been long exploring itong ating mga omicron-specific na bakuna," she said. "Alam po at recognized ng gobyerno at ng Department of Health 'yung importansiya nitong mga bakunang darating na new generation."
(The government and the DOH know and recognize the importance of these new generation vaccines.)
The US manufacturer already asked for a term sheet from the Philippine government, she said.
A term sheet typically outlines relevant details on the vaccine procurement, including the number of doses to be ordered, purchase price, delivery schedules and other rights and obligations of the parties.
Vergeire said the DOH also has a continuing discussion with Pfizer over these new generation vaccines.
"We have scheduled a meeting with Pfizer this coming week," she said.
On Tuesday, the DOH reported the country had detected 1,400 additional cases of omicron subvariants.
The omicron variant, which has milder symptoms but is more infectious, has become dominant across the world this year -- particularly in recent months, its subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.
Vaccine makers have been racing to catch up, aiming to provide updated booster shots ahead of an expected new wave of COVID cases in the northern hemisphere's winter.
AIMING FOR BA.4 and BA.5
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna first tweaked their original vaccines to include the spike protein seen in the BA.1 subvariant, while also still targeting the original strain.
Then both vaccines were further tweaked to include the spike proteins on the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
The US Food and Drug Administration approved both BA.4/5 vaccines late last month, and officials hope millions of Americans will receive bivalent boosters throughout September.
The European Union's medicines watchdog EMA approved Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's BA.1 vaccines at the start of this month.
The EMA then approved Pfizer-BioNTech's BA.4/5 last week, saying its recommendation was based on clinical data from the older BA.1 version.
Canada meanwhile authorized Moderna's BA.1 vaccine at the start of September.
France became the latest country on Tuesday to authorize the new COVID-19 vaccines that have been updated to target omicron subvariants ahead of autumn booster campaign.
Other vaccine makers are working on bivalent jabs, including one from France's Sanofi and Britain's GSK that targets the earlier Delta and Beta strains.
The EMA is reviewing that vaccine as well as another from the Spanish pharma firm HIPRA targeting the Alpha and Beta strains.
— With report from Agence France-Presse; Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News