MANILA - The Philippines is looking into building a portfolio of potential vaccines against the novel coronavirus, an official spearheading the country's COVID-19 inoculation program said Friday.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, in an interview with Teleradyo, said they had been in advanced talks with various pharmaceutical companies over holding clinical trials of their experimental vaccines in the country.
"Ang gagawin natin is portfolio po. Kasi alam po natin there's still uncertainties on the efficacy and safety [of the vaccines]," he said.
(We're building a portfolio because we know there's still uncertainties on the efficacy and safety [of the vaccines].)
Other companies Philippines is negotiating with are China's Sinovac, Russia's state-run Gamaleya Institute and Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceuticals arm Janssen.
Galvez said the Philippines was also set to sign a confidential agreement with US drug maker Pfizer for possible vaccine supply deal.
Pfizer recently reported its vaccine was 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 while AstraZeneca's vaccine developed with the University of Oxford showed an average 70-percent efficacy.
The Philippines on Friday signed a deal with AstraZeneca for the purchase of 2 million possible coronavirus vaccines as part of the private sector's initiative to boost the country's fight against the disease.
Private firms such as San Miguel, Aboitiz, Ayala, JG Summit Holdings and Megaworld will pay the vaccines, of which half will be donated to the government.
The other half will be used to inoculate the private sector's employees, said Galvez. The private firms will prioritize those considered poor such as laborers, truck drivers, and security guards, he added.
Presidential adviser on entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion had said they were looking into procuring more vaccines of up to 3 million doses.
Amid fears the vaccines are rushed and may carry potential side effects, Galvez, who also serves as the pandemic response chief implementer, assured the public the government would not be cutting corners to solve the pandemic.
He said the vaccines would be first administered en masse to their country of origin.
"Bago tayo maturukan, may mass vaccination na naganap," he added.
(Before we get vaccinated, there would be mass vaccination [in other countries.)
As of Thursday, the Philippines has tallied 424,297 coronavirus cases, of which 8,242 deaths were linked to the disease. Some 387,266 patients have recovered from COVID-19 while 28,789 have yet to recover.