The Philippines will get 2.6 million doses of AstraZenica’s COVID-19 vaccine, which will enable it to inoculate 1.3 million people next year, the country’s vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said Friday.
The private sector will cover the cost of the vaccine, under a tripartite agreement between the Philippine government, the private sector, and the British pharmaceutical company AstraZenica, which was signed Friday.
Galvez said the deal was significant because it provides equitable access to a COVID-19 vaccine from a reputable company that worked with Oxford University.
He added negotiations were ongoing for another 1 million doses of the vaccine.
AstraZeneca-Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine has been found 70 percent effective against COVID-19 at the first dose, but it increases to 90 percent after the second dose is administered a month after the first dose.
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is expected to cost $3 to $4 a dose, much cheaper than drugs being developed by American companies Pfizer and Moderna, and does not need to be stored in ultra-low temperatures.
The British government said on Friday it has asked its independent medicines regulator to assess AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine as part of the formal approval process for the drug to be rolled out by the end of the year.
AstraZeneca has completed Phase III clinical trials of its vaccine, the last stage before regulatory approval.
But under British rules, the government must also ask the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to green light the drug.
“We have formally asked the regulator to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, to understand the data and determine whether it meets rigorous safety standards,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Britain has secured access to 100 million doses of the vaccine produced by the British drug manufacturer in partnership with the University of Oxford.
The department of health has said it expects 4 million doses of the shot to be ready for Britain by the end of the year and 40 million by the end of March 2021.
Earlier on Thursday, AstraZeneca said further research was needed on the vaccine, but the additional testing was unlikely to affect the approval process.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has shown an average 70 percent effectiveness.
But that rate jumped to 90 percent when an initial half-dose then a full dose was given, similar to that in rival vaccines in development by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.
In the 2021 national budget bill approved by the Senate, P83 billion has been allocated for the purchase, storage and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines next year.
Some P8 billion of this will be under the Department of Health’s regular budget, while P54 billion will be set as unprogrammed appropriations.
A total of P21 billion has been appropriated for the storage, transportation and distribution costs of COVID-19 vaccines.
In the same budget bill, the Senate has allotted P10 billion for the social amelioration program (SAP), under the regular budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The SAP was first introduced under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act with an allocation of P200 billion. It covered the provision of P5,000 to P8,000 emergency cash subsidies to 18 million low-income households affected by the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 lockdowns earlier this year.
Another P6 billion was allocated for cash assistance through the DSWD under the second Bayanihan law which was enacted in September.
Two months ago, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado told senators there was no budget allocation for SAP as it was not part of the National Expenditure Program.
Meanwhile, a congressional leader urged the government to prepare early for the storage and distribution of the much-awaited COVID-19 vaccine.
House Bill 8000 of Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo mandates that the state “shall amply prepare cold storage facilities for storing and safekeeping of COVID-19 vaccines in anticipation of their arrival and mass distribution to the Filipino people.”
The bill empowers the Department of Health to “urgently prepare for the provision” of such facilities “in accordance with specifications that are suitable for the safekeeping of the vaccines.”
Now that several drug companies have reported that their vaccines against the new coronavirus have an efficacy rate of 70 percent to 95 percent, Castelo said many countries are ramping up preparations for receiving and distributing vaccines to their people.
“Considering that our country is a populous nation and is an archipelago, a safe and effective mass distribution of the vaccine requires ample planning and preparation,” she said.
She said it is the intention of her bill to “provide sufficient and appropriate cold storage equipment and facilities” for the arrival and delivery of COVID-19 vaccination doses.
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