Filipinos told to wait until 2022 for vaccines

Carlito Galvez (GMA News)

By Fernan Angeles

IN what appears to be far from what many thought it would, a top Palace official hinted at the need for Filipinos to wait until 2022 to get a shot of the coronavirus vaccine.

In a television interview, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, who is leading the country’s pandemic response, said the government will prioritize health-care workers and other vulnerable groups, with vaccine supply expected to be initially limited.

Galvez said equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine may be available only in 2022, despite encouraging results from some vaccine candidates that are nearing regulatory approval.

“Only maybe in 2022 we’ll have maybe equitable access with the [vaccine],” he said.

“Maybe, during 2022 when we have enough supply for the vaccine, we might allow the commercialization of the vaccine. But for 2021, even [the] World Health Organization (WHO) and also the vaccine makers, they will not indulge on commercial involvement of the private sector,” he added.

Priority will be given to health-care workers, indigents, vulnerable groups, essential workers, policemen and soldiers, Galvez said.

Galvez also hinted at a geographical strategy for the distribution of the vaccine, with those badly-hit by the pandemic such as Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao to be prioritized.

The government is building a portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines from various drug makers, saying it is already negotiating with China’s Sinovac, Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical arm Janssen and US drug maker Pfizer, among others, for possible vaccine supply deal.

The Department of Finance (DOF) had said the government would need at least P73.2 billion to procure vaccines against the novel coronavirus for 60 million Filipinos, in hopes of achieving herd immunity. But as most vaccines require 2 doses, the target population can be slashed by half.

A bulk of the funding for the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines will come from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank through low-cost, long-term loans, the DOF said.

Some P20 billion will come from domestic sources like the Landbank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines, as well as other government-owned and controlled corporations and bilateral negotiations.

The Philippines on Friday signed a deal with AstraZeneca for the purchase of 2 million possible coronavirus vaccines as part of the private sector’s initiative to boost the country’s fight against the disease.

Private firms such as San Miguel, Aboitiz, Ayala, JG Summit Holdings and Megaworld will pay for the vaccines, of which half will be donated to the government. The other half will be used to inoculate the private sector’s employees, said Galvez.

As of Sunday, the Philippines has tallied 429,864 coronavirus cases, of which 8,373 deaths were linked to the disease, 398, 624 are recoveries, while 22,867 are active infections.

Philippines’ virus tally nears 430,000 with over 2,000 new confirmed infections.

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