Duterte: PH to borrow $300-M for COVID-19 vaccine

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 11) – President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Tuesday the Philippine government intends to borrow $300 million (around ₱14.5 billion) to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

Duterte made his announcement after American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and German partner BioNTech reported on Monday their COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective based on their analysis.

RELATED: Pfizer says early analysis shows its COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective

"(Finance Secretary) Sonny (Dominguez III) says he can borrow money of $300 million. That is big and we can buy those. But I think it would do us well to realize that they will prioritize their people first," said Duterte during the weekly meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) in Malacañang.

The President reaffirmed his promise to have all Filipinos vaccinated, prioritizing first the poor.

"Hindi na talaga nakakatakot ang COVID. But sa ngayon, magbili ka mahal. But as I have promised, gastos ng gobyerno itong bakuna para sa lahat ng Pilipino. Kaya umpisahan natin sa mga mahirap," Duterte explained.

[Translation: COVID is not that scary anymore. But for now, it's expensive if you buy a vaccine. But as I have promised, the government will cover the vaccine costs for all Filipinos. We will start this with the poor.]

Newly-appointed vaccine czar and pandemic response Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. previously said the earliest possible rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the country is from May to July next year.

Meanwhile, former United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) Associate Commissioner Peter Pitts said the world needs more than one vaccine since there are different approaches against the coronavirus.

"The Moderna vaccine, for example, is collecting data to show that it is effective for an elderly population. Other vaccines might say they are more effective for pediatric population. We're gonna learn by doing it, the technology will only get better over time," Pitts told CNN Philippines' Rico Hizon on Tuesday.

Pitts expressed his hope the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will get an emergency use authorization from the US FDA as soon as possible to allow the rollout of mass vaccination of medical and essential workers at the start of 2021 and the entire human population by Easter 2021.