PH lags behind some Southeast Asian neighbors in COVID-19 vaccine procurement

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 17 2020 04:12 PM

PH lags behind some Southeast Asian neighbors in COVID-19 vaccine procurement 1
Pharmacy manager Larren Suh prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, US, Dec. 16, 2020. Craig F. Walker, Pool/Reuters

MANILA — As Philippine officials trade barbs over who "dropped the ball" that supposedly foiled a vaccine procurement deal with Pfizer, other Southeast Asian nations are receiving batches of their orders from several pharmaceutical giants to immunize their citizens as soon as they get local regulatory approvals. 

In Manila, inoculation czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr said last week China's Sinovac may only arrive in the country by March 2021— if a contract is signed within the month. 

Western-made vaccines Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca might come at a later time, Galvez added, as their countries of origin will be prioritized and "more than 80 percent of vaccine manufacturing capacity has been procured" by first world countries.

However, Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged on Tuesday that an apparent Pfizer negotiation—which would have seen the arrival of its vaccine in Philippine shore by January 2021—was foiled due to Health Secretary Francisco Duque's "indifference."

The deal to secure about 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine was brokered by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Philippine envoy to US Jose Manuel Romualdez as early as July. 

Instead, the supplies went to Singapore, all because of Duque's lack of urgency, they alleged.

Duque rejected the accusations, saying the negotiation is "ongoing." 

 HOW OTHER SOUTHEAST ASIAN COUNTRIES ARE FARING

Singapore has approved the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, and expects to receive the first shipments of the shots by the end of December, their prime minister said Monday.

Last week, Indonesia received 1.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine made by China's Sinovac, with another 1.8 million set to arrive next month.

Malaysia announced last month it has agreed to buy 12.8 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Pfizer will deliver the first one million doses in the first quarter of 2021, with 1.7 million, 5.8 million and 4.3 million doses to follow in subsequent quarters.

Thailand last month also signed a purchase agreement for AstraZeneca’s potential COVID-19 vaccine. Thailand’s cabinet previously approved a budget of $198 million for the purchase of 26 million doses for the immunization of 13 million people.

Vietnam, meanwhile, started its trial of a locally-developed COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, according to local media. The country has kept its coronavirus tally to just above 1,400 cases and gone over two months without community transmission.

In the Philippines, the local drug regulatory body said it has yet to receive emergency use applications from any vaccine developers.

— With reports from Agence France-Presse and Reuters