Ball dropped? Vaccine deal with Pfizer in progress, PH envoy says

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 16) — The deal for the Philippines to procure 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccines is not yet scrapped despite the fact that "someone dropped the ball," which put the agreement in peril, a Philippine envoy said.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez on Wednesday made the clarification following the controversial tweet of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. that they were able to secure millions of vaccine doses to arrive in the country by January 2021, but plans were foiled because "someone dropped the ball."

Romualdez said the vaccine arrival will most likely be delayed by a few months because other nations were able to finalize deals earlier. But he said the deal for Pfizer vaccines is in progress, and so are procurement agreements for US-manufactured Moderna.

"Only pushed back to later date of delivery possibly June next year because we did (not) act quick enough on the CDA (Confidential Disclosure Agreement). Other countries got ahead of us like Singapore," he said in a text message to CNN Philippines, referring to Pfizer.

He added, "We are 'work in progress' with Pfizer & Moderna for supply of vaccines. If we commit soon we can possibly get delivery by mid next year."

Senator Panfilo Lacson, during the Senate Committee on Appointments hearing on Wednesday, asked Locsin about his tweet. The lawmaker fumed that the Philippines missed the opportunity to receive vaccines as early as January, saying he knows the "captain" who messed up.

"You can figure out who is the captain ball I am referring to, who keeps dropping the ball but manages to stay in the game because the coach refuses to replace him," Lacson said in a message.

Had the deal brokered by Philippine officials and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remained on schedule, Pfizer would have been the first coronavirus vaccine to arrive in the country. To date, only the vaccine produced by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech has secured emergency use authorization abroad, including from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Singapore.

The Duterte administration is still banking on Chinese-manufactured vaccine Sinovac to be the first vaccine to reach the Philippines. Roque on Tuesday said Sinovac is the only brand that can provide supply at the earliest time possible, which is in March or April 2021. The government is looking to secure up to 25 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine, even if the Chinese drug maker has not yet disclosed results of its phase 3 clinical trials to prove it is safe and effective.

The country has so far formally secured 2.6 million doses of vaccine from British drug maker AstraZeneca, which are expected to arrive in the second quarter of 2021.The deal was closed through a ₱600-million donation from over 30 private companies. The company has also agreed to provide another batch of vaccines, officials said.

CNN Philippines correspondents Tristan Nodalo and Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.