MANILA (2ND UPDATE) — The Philippine government is still negotiating with Pfizer and six other pharmaceutical companies for the procurement of vaccines against COVID-19, the official on top of the effort said Saturday, following reports that the country's deal with the US drug maker had been botched.
“Still we are working with Pfizer. Mas malaki pa nga makukuha natin at saka mas mababa ang presyo (we will get a larger supply at a lower price),” said vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. had on Tuesday said that 10 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine were set to be shipped to the Philippines in January until “somebody dropped the ball.”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson then said it was Health Secretary Francisco Duque behind the bungled deal, which the latter denied.
“I believe hindi natin na-drop 'yung ball, ongoing ang negotiations namin. Ngayon, hinihintay lang namin confirmation sa taas,” he said in an interview on TeleRadyo on Saturday.
(I believe we did not drop the ball, negotiations are ongoing. We are just waiting for confirmation from the higher-ups.)
Aside from Pfizer, Galvez said they are also in talks with 6 other vaccine companies like Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Sinovac, Gamaleya and SinoPharm.
Galvez said they are already in the advance stage of negotiations with five of these companies, including Pfizer.
Pfizer's vaccine is already in use in the United States and United Kingdom, while Moderna just got emergency use authorization from Washington on Friday.
He said there might be a "closed deal" by December or early January, and that supply could reach the country by March and April.
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In a public press briefing held later Saturday, Galvez said they are currently waiting for the number of doses Pfizer will be allocating for the Philippines, pending "validation and confirmation" from its headquarters.
Galvez also said they are accelerating talks with the company, adding that they may know how many doses will be allocated to the Philippines by December or January.
"Once na nagkaroon na tayo kung ilan ng allocate sa atin, ay magkakaroon ng pirmahan at hopefully ang pinaka-earliest within this month. Or maybe kung magka-delay sa allocation it will be first week of January," he said, adding that negotiations for the vaccine started "as early as August and September."
(Once we find out how many will be allocated to us, we will have a signing and hopefully the earliest would be this month. But if there are delays, we will have it in the first week of January.)
He also explained that the delays were caused by "uncertainties" in the vaccine pattern.
"Noong tumawag si Ambassador Babe Romualdez more or less August o September nagsimula na kami ng negotiations. Pero kasi maraming uncertainties, kasi nga ang platform ng Pfizer ay hindi pa ginagamit," Galvez said, referring to Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez.
(When Ambassador Babe Romualdez called more or less August and September, we started our negotiations. But there were a lot of uncertainties then, because Pfizer's platform has not been used.)
He said the volumes would come in tranches as companies have different timelines.
Romualdez earlier said that Moderna and Arcturus are willing to provide the country 4 to 25 million doses of the vaccine by the third quarter of 2021 should the government find their proposals acceptable.
"We will try our best na magkaroon kami ng closed deal and baka magkausap kami ng Moderna within the week," said Galvez.
(We will try our best to have a closed deal and we might have talks with Moderna within the week.)
Galvez said they would roll out the vaccine from Pfizer in Metro Manila and other major cities with a negative 70 cold chain storage capacity.
“‘Di natin puwedeng ibigay 'yan sa mga islands because napaka-critical pong i-handle ang vaccine na ito,” he said.
(We can't supply that to the islands because it's critical to handle these vaccines correctly.)
Other areas would be given vaccines that do not need extensive refrigeration.