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THE first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech firm in the US, arrived Sunday night at Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

From the total of 249,600 doses, the National Task Force Against COVID-19 said 150,000 doses will be given to the Philippine government.

On the other hand, the remaining 99,600 doses will be given to business tycoon Enrique Razon’s International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI).

The shipment, which forms part of the 20 million Moderna COVID-19 vaccines procurement deal, is the first to be delivered under a tripartite agreement undertaken by the private sector to pool and purchase Moderna doses.

Under the tripartite agreement, 7 million were purchased by the private sector and 13 million were procured by the government through multilateral loans from the World Bank.

The latest vaccine shipment brings the total number of doses received by the Philippines since February 28 to about 16.4 million. Moderna is also the fifth brand to be used in the government’s vaccination campaign, following Sinovac, AstraZeneca, Sputnik V, and Pfizer-BioNTech.

NTF COVID-19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez welcomed the Moderna vaccines shipment together with Christian Martin Gonzalez, executive vice president of ICTSI, David Gamble, Jr., economic counselor of the US Embassy in the Philippine, officials of Zuellig Pharma, and Department of Health Usec Carol Tanio.

The Moderna-branded doses were supposed to arrive on June 21. The delivery, however, was snagged over issues with transportation and the company’s storage facility.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier cleared Moderna’s vaccine for emergency use in the country on May 5.

FDA Director General Eric Domingo said the agency was able to fully evaluate and approve Moderna’s vaccine faster than the 21 days allotted for reviewing COVID-19 vaccines or drugs for emergency use because the company submitted complete documents.

Like Pfizer’s vaccine, Moderna’s shot makes use of the messenger RNA or mRNA platform, which is a genetic material that cells read to make proteins. In Phase 3 trials, Moderna’s vaccine demonstrated 94 percent efficacy in preventing clinical COVID-19 and 100 percent efficacy against severe disease.

Storage of Moderna’s vaccine would be more complex compared to other jabs as it requires being frozen in colder temperatures, specifically -25°C to -15°C up to expiration. But unlike the Pfizer vaccine, thawed and unopened vials of Moderna’s shot may be kept longer in standard refrigerated temperatures of 2°C to 8°C for 30 days, making it easier to handle in countries like the Philippines equipped with such storage facilities.

Moderna’s vaccine was developed in collaboration with the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Aside from Moderna’s vaccine, the Philippine government expects to receive more shipments from Sinovac, the Gamaleya Research Institute, and the global COVAX Facility for the remainder of June.

Since the Philippines started its vaccine rollout on March 1, the government has so far inoculated 5.75 percent of the country’s population. Interestingly, only 1.98 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

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