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THE government’s designated point man over vaccine procurement hinted on backing out of an agreement with a Chinese bio-pharmaceutical company to supply the country with its coronavirus vaccine, citing that the deal has not been sealed.

At the Senate inquiry, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, the chief implementer of the government’s COVID-19 response, said that the government may opt to drop the China-made vaccines from its list of potential sources of COVID-19 vaccines.

The administration has been heavily criticized over its apparent partiality for the Sinovac vaccine despite its lower efficacy and higher cost.

Interestingly, Galvez’s claim that the Philippine government could still back out from the Sinovac deal seemed contrary to what Health Secretary Francisco Duque had earlier said.

Duque earlier claimed that the government had “sealed the deal with Sinovac for 25 million [doses] with early 50,000 doses by February, 950,000 by March and 2 to 3 million in succeeding months ’till December with 25 million doses.”

Galvez said the government had not yet paid Sinovac, adding that the government simply secured an advance market commitment from the Chinese pharmaceutical company to “lock in” a certain number of doses for the country.

He explained that no supply contract had been signed as the vaccine was still subject to a review by a government-led panel of experts and authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Galvez said the interagency COVID-19 task force was “not favoring any one particular brand or country.”

“While we cannot yet disclose the number of orders, we are assuring the public that we will have a fair mix of vaccine options but we want to emphasize that … only those endorsed by the vaccine expert panel will be purchased,” he said.

The government had shortlisted seven drug manufacturers whose vaccines may be procured for mass inoculation: Sinovac of China, Gamaleya of Russia, AstraZeneca of the United Kingdom, and four pharmaceuticals from the United States – Moderna, Janssen, Novavax (with Serum Institute of India), and Pfizer (with BioNTech of Germany).

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted an emergency use authorization (EUA) to Pfizer and is reviewing a pending application by AstraZeneca.

Sinovac applied for EUA for its vaccine called Coronavac only this week. The FDA could not yet evaluate Sinovac’s application until it had submitted interim results of its Phase 3 trials, according to its director general Rolando Domingo.

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