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Vaccine czar appeases House on supply delay

Lawmakers on Thursday asked vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. why there were delays in the signing of tripartite agreements for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines by local governments and the private sector.

At a hearing conducted by the House committee on economic affairs, Deputy Speaker and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus expressed dismay over Galvez’s failure to act on the requests of local governments and private companies, despite the need for a steady supply of vaccines.

“I am really concerned, there are pending [agreements] with you and you have not signed [them]. The cities, the provinces.. [are] receiving no answer from your office,” Rodriguez said.

The multi-party agreements should be signed to help local government units (LGUs) and private companies get good pricing and a steady supply of COVID-19 vaccines, he added.

But Galvez said the absence of a direct contract prevents him from signing an agreement. And even if he signed the deals, he said, there is no guarantee that there will be a steady supply of vaccines.

“One, you cannot sign an MPA without a direct contract. That is due diligence. I cannot sign any document without a direct contract. Second, even if we have signed our contract, no supply will come and help our governors to vaccinate because the supply will come in 2022,” Galvez said.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) urged rich countries to impose a moratorium on third vaccine shots until the end of the year to guarantee enough vaccines for developing and poor countries.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that some wealthy nations are moving ahead with booster shots to protect their populations due to the recent surges in coronavirus cases with the emergence of the highly-contagious Delta and other variants.

He said booster shots are intended to strengthen vaccine efficacy, but the WHO would not propose them under the present circumstances because of the lack of sufficient data on efficacy and potential side effects of the coronavirus vaccines.

A temporary halt to booster shots, Tedros said, would also allow every country to vaccinate at least 40 percent of its population.

“A month ago, I called for a global moratorium on booster doses at least until the end of September, to prioritize vaccinating the most at-risk people around the world who are yet to receive their first dose,” Tedros said.

Since the situation has changed little, Tedros asked the moratorium be extended at least until the end of the year.

Although 5.5 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered

globally, Tedros said 80 percent of these have gone to high- and upper-middle income countries.

At the same time, Tedros asked advanced countries to fulfill their dose-sharing pledges to developing countries by the end of September.

Hd said high-income countries had promised to donate more than one billion vaccine doses to poorer countries, he said -- “but less than15 percent of those doses have materialized.”

“We don’t want any more promises. We just want the vaccines,” he said.

“I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers,” he said.

He also sought wealthy countries and vaccine makers to prioritize getting the first jabs to health workers and vulnerable populations in poorer nations over boosters.

“We do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated,” he said.

In other developments:

* The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said 15.2 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Sept. 7. Speaking during a budget briefing, NEDA Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua told the Senate that since the vaccine rollout last March, 36.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered. He said 20.9 people got their first dose while 15.3 million got their second dose. To date, he said 52.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to the Philippines. He said this included the vaccines procured by the Philippine government and donations through the COVAX facility of the WHO.

* The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Thursday it was still too early to say anything conclusive regarding the “waning effectiveness” of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines. Domingo underscored the need to gather more data to determine whether there is a reduction in effectiveness after several months. Sinovac shots were first introduced in the country in March. But he said the current data showed there were only 180 breakthrough cases among the 6.87 million Filipinos who were fully vaccinated with Sinovac, the most widely used vaccine in the country. Of the 180 cases, four died.

* More vaccine shipments from the United Kingdom and China are scheduled to arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport today (Friday), airport officials said on Thursday. A shipment of more than half a million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines is set to land at the NAIA Terminal 1 around 9:30 a.m. aboard China Airlines flight 701 via Taipei. On the other hand, flag carrier Philippine Airlines was commissioned to transport 1.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccines from Beijing and are scheduled to arrive in the afternoon.

* The Department of Health (DOH) and FDA said that as of Aug. 29, only 0.0017 percent of the 13.8 million fully vaccinated people got COVID-19. This came to 242 out of 13.8 million people, or 0.0017 percent, the agencies said. Moreover, out of the 33.3 million jabs, only 0.18 percent had suspected adverse reactions.

Topics: Carlito Galvez Jr. , COVID-19 , vaccines , Delta variant
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