"This operation is not simple."
With COVID-19 vaccines now just around the corner, vaccine Czar Secretary Galvez is in negotiations for the procurement of vaccines for Filipinos.
The best-case scenario for Filipinos to start getting vaccinated is June of 2021. The ideal situation would be for all 109 million Filipinos to be vaccinated. The apparent intention is to vaccinate between 60 to 70 million of the population which will be enough to achieve herd immunity.
President Duterte’s guidance is for the following people to be vaccinated in the order of priority. First will be the front liners. These are the medical professionals, followed by the soldiers and police then the very poor and vulnerable. I take the word vulnerable to mean the elderly who have underlying medical conditions although this was not categorically stated by the President.
At the moment, three pharmaceutical companies have announced the successful trials of their vaccines. These are Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. Pfizer reported a 95-percent efficacy. Moderna just reported a 100-percent efficacy in preventing severe COVID-19 cases while AstraZeneca reported about 90 per cent efficacy rate.
Sinovac has applied for trial in this country although the vaccine has already been used to vaccinate all Chinese military personnel. I understand that AstraZeneca is making arrangements with the Philippine government for a trial as well. What is important for Sec Galvez to be able to select the safest, most efficacious, and an affordable vaccine.
AstraZeneca has already stated that its vaccine will be priced at about $2 a shot, or $4 for the two-shot dose. Pfizer and Moderna on the other hand said that their vaccines will cost about $15 to $20 a shot which translates to about $30 to $40 to complete the two doses. Johnson & Johnson, another vaccine developer, has not yet announced its results but its vaccine will only require one shot instead of two. So, Johnson & Johnson might end up cheap also. The price for Sinovac I understand is going to be more expensive but vaccine czar Secretary Galvez is still in negotiations with the Chinese pharmaceutical company.
It would therefore be interesting to see the eventual picks of Galvez who has said that his team will choose about four vaccines. Since Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson& Johnson have not applied for trials in this country, I take it that our FDA will still give its seal of approval so long as these three are green lighted by their own governments.
For now, the government wants us all to believe that there is a prepared vaccination plan. But it is beginning to look like the start of the pandemic when the IATF decided on what to do from meeting to meeting. We never saw any detailed operation plan. By the looks of it, we might experience the same thing with the vaccine. We are only seeing a bird’s eye view of the government’s intentions but no published plan just yet. For the vaccination program to work efficiently, it is imperative that there is detailed planning to avoid a chaotic process. Every level of government must know and understand the role that it will play.
This operation is not so simple. Storing the vaccines alone requires detailed planning and there are other steps like procuring, withdrawal and administering the vaccines, not to mention identifying those who will be vaccinated. And to think that the government is thinking of doing this from two to five years.
One great advantage of a published plan is that it will give the public time to learn, understand and adjust accordingly when the time comes for the vaccination. One issue that needs clarification is that what the government is currently saying and what it is doing with regard to the vaccine program do not seem to match. This is especially true with regard to the money to buy the vaccines. Perhaps, the government should level with the public and categorically state how much is available for the vaccines. Also, what happens to the people not on President Duterte’s list? Will vaccines be available in the open market for them to be able to buy? These all need clarification by the government.
So far, there have been many press releases about the vaccine but no categorical and official government statements. What we are sure of right now is that Secretary Galvez has signed a deal to buy 2.9 million doses from AstraZeneca. We know that there were big private companies that also signed a deal with AstraZeneca to buy a quantity of doses. We do not know the exact number.
We know of the President’s guidance. Apart from those, only media reports and still no published detailed plan.