Access to COVID-19 vaccine for all Filipinos may be available only in 2022: official

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 30 2020 01:14 PM

A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken Oct. 30, 2020. Dado Ruvic, Reuters/File

MANILA - Most Filipinos may have to wait until 2022 to get a shot of the coronavirus vaccine, an official leading the country's pandemic response said Monday, as the government will prioritize health-care workers and other vulnerable groups, with vaccine supply expected to be initially limited.

Speaking to ANC's Matters of Fact, vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez said equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine may be available only in 2022, despite encouraging results from some vaccine candidates that are nearing regulatory approval.

"Only maybe in 2022 we'll have maybe equitable access with the [vaccine]," he said.

"Maybe, during 2022 when we have enough supply for the vaccine, we might allow the commercialization of the vaccine. But for 2021, even [the] World Health Organization (WHO) and also the vaccine makers, they will not indulge on commercial involvement of the private sector," he added.

Priority will be given to health-care workers, indigents, vulnerable groups, essential workers, policemen and soldiers, Galvez said.

Authorities will also employ a geographical strategy for the distribution of the vaccine, with those badly-hit by the pandemic such as Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao to be prioritized, he added.

The Philippine government is building a portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines from various drug makers, saying it is already negotiating with China's Sinovac, Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical arm Janssen and US drug maker Pfizer, among others, for possible vaccine supply deal.

"Our estimate is that we're getting 10, 15 or even 20 million [doses] from each of these vaccine makers, [then] we can get our quota for this year," he said.

The Department of Finance (DOF) had said the government would need at least P73.2 billion to procure vaccines against the novel coronavirus for 60 million Filipinos, in hopes of achieving herd immunity. But as most vaccines require 2 doses, the target population can be slashed by half.

The country's latest projected population, as of the third quarter this year, is 108.8 million, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. 

A bulk of the funding for the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines will come from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank through low-cost, long-term loans, the DOF said.

Some P20 billion will come from domestic sources like the Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines, as well as other government-owned and controlled corporations and bilateral negotiations.

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 for 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.

As of Sunday, the Philippines has tallied 429,864 coronavirus cases, of which 8,373 deaths were linked to the disease, 398, 624 are recoveries, while 22,867 are active infections.

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