Areas badly hit by COVID-19 to be prioritized in vaccine rollout
MANILA - The Philippine government is negotiating with four pharmaceutical companies developing a vaccine for COVID-19.
Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., the country's "vaccine czar", said the government's vaccine experts are currently analyzing 17 different COVID-19 vaccines.
Of this number, 5 vaccines will be tested on Filipinos, including vaccines developed by China's Sinovac, Russia's Gamaleya, UK's AstraZeneca, and American company Johnson & Johnson.
Galvez also said that after President Rodrigo Duterte allowed the emergency use of coronavirus vaccines and approved an advance payment to their private developers, the government is now negotiating with four vaccine makers - Sinovac, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.
"When you approved the procedures and the strategies na magkaroon po tayo ng tinatawag na advanced market commitment. Sa ngayon po, puwede na po tayo, nagne-negotiate na po tayo sa 4 na malalaking kumpanya, kasama na po ang Sinovac from China, ang ating AstraZeneca at Pfizer," Galvez, who is also the country's chief implementer of the National Action Plan against COVID-19, said during the Cabinet's weekly briefing with the president.
(When you approved the procedures and the strategies, we can now have advanced market commitment. We can now negotiate, and we are negotiating with 4 big companies, including Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Pfizer.)
Galvez said the government hopes to sign a memorandum of understanding with AstraZeneca before the end of the month.
The British company will be reserving 20 million doses for the Philippines. According to Galvez, AstraZeneca is among those companies with the most affordable vaccine at around $5 per dose.
Once an MOU is signed, the vaccine from AstraZeneca, may be available around the second quarter of 2021.
Aside from AstraZeneca, the government is also eyeing 20 million doses each from Sinovac and Pfizer, for a total of around 60 million doses which will be administered to the country's most vulnerable sectors, as well as frontline health care workers, the police and the military.
VACCINE ROLLOUT GEOGRAPHICALLY, BY SECTOR
Galvez said once available, the government will roll out the vaccines geographically and then by sector.
"Meaning 'yung deployment po ng vaccine, para doon sa infected at yung mga tinatawag nating epicenter," he said.
(This means the deployment will be for those who are infected and in what we consider as epicenters.)
Among the areas to be given priority are the National Capital Region, Cebu City, Davao City and Bacolod, as well as other areas which logged a high number of COVID-19 cases.
"Priority ang NCR, priority ang Davao dahil ang Davao po ngayon umaakyat din, priority ang Cebu, priority po 'yung Bacolod, yung mga tinamaan po nang mabigat ng COVID, para at least malalaman po kaagad 'yung efficacy niya," Galvez explained.
(We will prioritize NCR, we will prioritize Davao because of the increasing number of cases there, we will prioritize Cebu, we will prioritize areas like Bacolod which were badly hit by COVID-19, so we can immediately know the efficacy of the vaccine.)
In said areas, those sectors previously identified by Duterte will be given priority - the poor, those who are vulnerable, the police, military as well as others who are considered as frontline workers.
"Then from geographical, magiging sectoral. Meaning kung sino ang priority natin, for example sa Metro Manila, 'yung urban poor, uunahin po natin doon. Yung vulnerable, uunahin po natin doon, 'yung mga sundalo naka-assign sa NCR, uunahin po natin. Saka 'yung essential workers," Galvez said.
(From geographical, we will then administer the vaccine by sector. This means we will give priority to those sectors previously identified by the government. Those who are vulnerable will be given priority, the soldiers who are deployed in NCR, we will prioritize them, as well as the essential workers.)
The Department of Health said first in the priority to receive the COVID-19 vaccine are frontline health workers, numbering over 1.7 million.
They are followed by indigent senior citizens (over 3.7 million), remaining senior citizens (over 5.6 million), remaining indigent population (nearly 13 million), and uniformed personnel (over half a million).
Officials project the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in the country by the second quarter of 2021.
As of Monday, the novel coronavirus has so far sickened 420,614 people in the Philippines. The tally includes 8,173 deaths, 386,604 recoveries, and 25,837 active cases.
The new coronavirus is believed to have first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
Based on the latest tally of the US-based Johns Hopkins University, more than 58.6 million people across the world have been infected by the COVID-19 virus, with 1.38 million deaths.
Treatment and vaccine for the disease are still being developed, but recent trials of pharmaceutical firms Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca have shown encouraging results.