Britain on Wednesday became the first Western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for general use, announcing a rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech’s drug from next week in a historic advance in the fight against the coronavirus.
“The government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for use,” the Department of Health said in a statement.
“The vaccine will be made available across the UK from next week,” the statement said. Priority groups will include care home residents, health and care staff, the elderly and the clinically extremely vulnerable.
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has issued an executive order authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency use authorization (EUA) to COVID-19 vaccines that will be made available here.
The EUA will reduce the processing time for the approval of the vaccines for local use from six months to 21 days, Malacanang said.
The issuance of an EO on EUA was proposed by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.
The Philippines logged on Wednesday 1,438 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 434,357, after 11 laboratories failed to submit their data, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
Top cities and provinces with new cases were Davao City with 142; Laguna, 89; Quezon City, 80; Manila, 63; and Pampanga, 58.
There are 26,916 active cases, which is 6.2 percent of the total cases.
Malacanang last Friday said that the government secured a deal with AstraZeneca to receive at least 2.6 million doses of the company’s coronavirus vaccine.
The DOH also said it will identify the areas where COVID-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University will be administered.
“Since this would be a tripartite agreement and the EUA (emergency use authorization) will be issued by the [Philippine] government, the allocation framework that the companies would follow would be the one prescribed by the Department of Health,” the DOH said.
“Help is on its way,” Health Minister Matt Hancock tweeted as his department announced emergency use approval by the UK’s independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
“The NHS (National Health Service) stands ready to start vaccinating early next week,” he said, noting: “The UK is the first country in the world to have a clinically approved vaccine for supply.”
An initial supply of 800,000 doses will be available, Hancock said.
“This will start small and ramp up,” he told BBC radio, anticipating “millions of doses” to be available by the end of the year.
FDA Director General Eric Domingo on Friday said it is possible the vaccines may arrive in the Philippines before the end of the second quarter of 2021.
“Our best case scenario that we have presented is more or less May but for now, if we will succeed in negotiating [for] two to three vaccines from different countries, we might be able to get it during the first quarter,” Galvez said.
He said once vaccine manufacturers receive an emergency use authorization from the FDA of other countries, it will speed up the country’s own regulatory review since there has already been a thorough study of the drug’s safety and efficacy.
Domingo assured the public there would be no safety compromises, despite the accelerated schedule.
He said the FDA and Department of Health are already working on strengthening the government’s vaccine monitoring efforts to easily spot possible adverse effects after inoculation.
The Philippines is hoping to acquire vaccines developed by the United States, China, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
Under the agreement with AstraZeneca, 50 percent of the vaccines will be distributed to areas identified by the DOH, while the remaining half will be given to geographical areas or sectors identified by the private firm that bought the vaccine.
Dr. Tony Leachon, a former adviser to the Inter-Agency Task Force which is the government’s policy making body on COVID-19 response, earlier suggested that the government prioritize the National Capital Region, Region 4 or Calabarzon and Region 3 or Central Luzon in vaccine distribution to be able to reach the required 70% herd immunity in these economic centers in a span of two years.
“The initial volume of vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna should be focused on NCR which has a population of 13 million, Calabarzon and Central Luzon because these areas make up 70% of the economic epicenter of the country,” Leachon said in an ANC interview.
“Once we are okay with the 70% of our economic epicenter, then we should focus on other hotspots [of COVID-19] like Davao and Cebu,” he added. AFP with Vito Barcelo and Willie Casas
Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire had said that the government cannot finish its COVID-19 vaccination in a year because the country does not have enough vaccine access for 2021. With Vito Barcelo and Willie Casas
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