MANILA—Having Pfizer register its COVID-19 vaccine with the Philippines' Food and Drug Administration is an ideal first step to get the pharma company distributing its shots in the country, a former government adviser on COVID-19 mitigation said on Friday.
In an interview on TeleRadyo, Dr. Tony Leachon, who used to be part of the national coronavirus inter-agency task force, had worked at Pfizer for nearly 20 years and assumed the role of medical director for regulatory affairs.
"[The next move] is iyong pagkakaroon man lang ng FDA approval ng Pfizer kasi kung 6 na country meron niyan, dapat nagmamadali tayo na irehistro natin," Leachon said.
"Kasi di maibabagsak sa bansa iyan kung wala tayong mga market authorization."
Leachon said he expected the Philippines' vaccine team, headed by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., to speak with Pfizer last December 10 and discuss how to move the deal forward.
"Ine-expect ko nu'ng December 10 nilakad na po ng ating vaccine team sa Pfizer na pakiusapan na irehistro na po iyon . . . Kung gaano man kahirap yung cold chain issue niyan, i-solve natin," Leachon added.
If the Pfizer vaccine gets the FDA nod in January, the country could still receive the supply in July or August, Leachon estimated.
" 'Pag narehistro ng Enero, bumilang kayo ng 6 months, July o August po," he said.
Earlier in the day, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said in an interview that the country must start moving and look at other pharmaceutical companies that have already developed vaccines against COVID-19.
It was Romualdez and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. who supposedly brokered a deal with Pfizer to deliver 10 million doses of its vaccine as early as January 2021.
But Health Secretary Francisco Duque's lack of urgency foiled the deal, the two officials alleged.
Duque and Galvez have disputed the allegations.
"Let me reiterate, no 'bus' was missed or no 'ball' was dropped because we are focused on our main goal, and that is to secure an equitable share of the vaccines," Galvez said in a statement Friday.
"We want to assure our countrymen that we are on track in the implementation of our Philippine National Vaccine Roadmap and there have been maybe some delays in our negotiations but still we were able to make up.
"We must learn to face certain realities and that is, we are struggling to get a fair share of the vaccines in the global market given that 80% of the vaccines have already been procured by the manufacturers' country of origin and countries now in the height of the 'second wave'."
Leachon, who had called on Duque to "make the supreme sacrifice" and step down as DOH chief, said he believed Romualdez and Locsin's account of the Pfizer deal.
"Medyo malaking kawalan o missed opportunity kasi kung ang pinag-uusapan 10 million doses, at kailangan mo po ng 2 doses, that's 5 million people, at ang population ng National Capital Region ay siyang epicenter ng COVID [sa Pilipinas] 9 million . . . Ang kailangan niyo lang po ay 4 na milyong doses," Leachon said.
He added that getting back in the game, as far as acquiring the Pfizer vaccine is concerned, would be more daunting now.
"Lahat ho ng bansa gusto makakuha ng reservation sa Pfizer sa ngayon. So ang tingin ko po e, baka po 'yung sinasabi ni Sec. Galvez, baka makuha natin mid-July o last quarter of [next] year, so baka October of 2021 po," Leachon said.
He urged government to talk with Pfizer as soon as possible, because the country still has a shot securing its vaccine.
"Kung Dec. 10 naaprubahan 'yung Pfizer sa Amerika, bumilang ka ng 21 days. By the end of the year, meron na tayong EUA (emergency use authorization), pwede na tayo ulit makipag-usap sa Pfizer kung pwede sila makapag-produce niyan at tatanggapin natin 'yon lalo ngayon na may pera na tayo," he said.
Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine is already in use in the US and the United Kingdom.
Government earlier said the Philippines may get vaccine supplies from Russia's Gamaleya Institute and 3 Chinese pharmaceutical firms by early 2021.