AstraZeneca approves sale of more COVID-19 vaccines to PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 14) — British drug maker AstraZeneca has approved the request of the Philippines' private sector for a second batch of coronavirus vaccine procurement, Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion said on Sunday. This deal will be on top of the 2.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines secured earlier through a ₱600-million donation from over 30 private companies.

Concepcion said that the initial procurement in November was meant to reach 3 million doses, but they had to follow a supply timeline to ensure equal distribution amid high demand. Now the second part of the agreement has been approved and can finally be processed, he said.

"The second part is now already in the works... We received several inquiries from the private sector asking for more allocation, hence, a request to AstraZeneca to hopefully allow us to have a second batch," he said in a statement.

In an interview on CNN Philippines, Concepcion said they aim to secure about five million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in total.

"Hopefully, we can come close to what we did in the first round, hopefully get to about 5 million (doses). We'll do our best," he said.

The initial 2.6 million vaccine doses are expected to benefit more than 1.5 million Filipinos, with healthcare workers and vulnerable sectors given priority. Half of the purchase will go to the government, while the other half will be administered to employees of businesses who pitched in.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health confirmed AstraZeneca has withdrawn its bid to hold vaccine trials in the country. But vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said the application was only placed on hold while awaiting clarification if half or full dose of the vaccine will be used during the trial.

The vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, showed an average efficacy of 70%.

Concepcion, however, noted that FDA Director-General Eric Domingo has clarified it is not mandatory for AstraZeneca to hold the third phase of its clinical trials in the country.

"What's important is that the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency), which is their version of the FDA, comes out for the use of AstraZeneca, so that our own FDA here can give approval to AstraZeneca to be used in the Philippines," he said.

Aside from AstraZeneca, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government has also closed deals with Chinese firm Sinovac and US drugmaker Pfizer, which are expected to be available in the country by the first and third quarter of 2021, respectively.

The government is looking at vaccinating at least 60 million of around110 million Filipinos in the next three to five years. Congress has set aside ₱72.5 billion for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines in the proposed national budget for 2021, which is expected to be signed into law by the President.