Gov't eyes securing total of 145M vaccine doses in 2 weeks, earlier Pfizer rollout – Galvez

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 12) — The Philippines is about to secure 90 million more doses of COVID-19 vaccines within the next two weeks, IATF vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. said Tuesday.

This will be on top of the 30 million doses of Covovax from the Serum Institute of India and 25 million doses of Sinovac vaccines, as well as advance purchases of local government units and private firms through tripartite agreements.

All in all, the national government is expected to have secured 145 million vaccine doses by the end of January. This is close to the target of procuring a total of 148 million doses, enough to vaccinate up to 70 million Filipinos this year, according to Galvez.

The government expects that the first to arrive will be 50,000 doses from China's Sinovac in February, but Galvez told CNN Philippines' Front and Center that vaccines from US firm Pfizer could be rolled out earlier. That is, if the COVAX facility would grant the Philippines' appeal for 44 million free doses.

"We are being evaluated," Galvez said. 

COVAX, a global initiative led by the World Health Organization along with the vaccine alliance Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, aims to ensure equitable access to safe and effective coronavirus vaccines.

Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative to the Philippines, said the country has until January 18 to confirm whether or not it agrees with the requirements set for the early rollout of Pfizer's vaccine. He did not elaborate.

Pfizer boasts of a vaccine efficacy rate of 95% and is now being used in many countries. But storage would be a major challenge as Pfizer’s vaccines need to be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

Galvez said arrangements are already being made with cold storage facilities. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be used in highly urbanized areas, while others that do not require ultra-cold storage, including AstraZeneca's, would be deployed to far-flung areas.

Private firms and local officials have struck deals mainly with United Kingdom-based AstraZeneca. 

LIST: Local governments secure vaccine doses in advance

All in all, seven vaccines brand are expected to be used in the country – with those from Sinovac, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca seen to be delivered first. Others include US firms Moderna, Novovax, and Johnson and Johnson, and Russia’s Gamaleya Institute.

Road to vaccination

Galvez said Pfizer has expressed intent to provide a higher volume, while talks with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen are nearing conclusion.

Talks with Moderna are also in the “final stages” for the procurement of up to 20 million doses, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said.

Gamaleya, meanwhile, has informed the government it could supply 50 to 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, Galvez said.

Maganda po ang ating negotiations. Ang binibilang na po natin ay meron na po kaming 145 (million) na volume na pwede naming masabi na within two weeks' time ay pwede na nating ma-lock in,” Galvez said.

[Translation: Our negotiations are doing great. We estimate a volume of 145 million vaccine doses being locked in two weeks' time.]

Galvez said the government initially intended to procure only 70 million doses, but the number doubled as pharmaceutical companies brought down prices.

During the negotiation, medyo maganda po ang naging offer ng ating mga manufacturer kaya naitaas po natin from 70 naitaas po natin ng doble,” Galvez said.

[Translation: During the negotiation, manufacturers had good offers, that's why we were able to double the number from the initial 70 million doses.]

To expedite the vaccination process once supplies are available in the country, Galvez urged local government units to identify and list as early as now vaccine recipients and inoculation centers in their respective areas.

He also asked local officials to "have confidence" in the government's choice of vaccines, especially as a number of LGUs have expressed their vaccine brand preferences.

"Sana po kung ano po ang mauna, ang guidance ko lang po ay [Hopefully, whichever vaccines come first, my guidance is that] let's have confidence in our government and vaccine expert panel na we really have to take it immediately," he said.

The country is banking on the vaccination program to further open the economy, which plunged into recession after months of varying levels of community quarantine.

Catch the interview on CNN Philippines’ Front and Center on Wednesday, January 13, 7 p.m.