Private sector secures 2.6M doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 27) — The Philippines secured around 2.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca through a ₱600-million donation from the private sector.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr., and Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship and Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion led the ceremonial signing of the tripartite agreement on Friday, attended by some of the biggest names in business.

Go Negosyo said more than 30 companies pitched in for the donation. Some of those who attended the virtual signing are San Miguel Corporation President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon Ang, Ayala Corp. Chairman and CEO Jaime Zobel de Ayala, and JG Summit president and chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei.

The vaccine doses are expected to benefit more than 1.5 million Filipinos, with healthcare workers and vulnerable sectors given priority. Half of the purchase would go to the government, while the other half will be used by the private sector, also for their frontliners.

Officials and businessmen are hopeful the vaccine will be delivered by June 2021, after the clinical trials.

Galvez and Concepcion said the Bristish-Swedish drug maker offered the vaccine at no profit, making it the easiest and cheapest purchase. One dose is just $10 or almost ₱500. The downpayment for every dose is only $5 or nearly ₱250. This means a deposit of almost ₱626 million for the nearly 2.6 million doses under the deal.

“The guaranteed 2.6 million doses will be a game changer,” said Galvez, who is also the country's COVID-19 response chief implementer. “It will give our people the confidence that we now finally have the chance to beat the virus.”

The Philippines has recorded nearly 426,000 coronavirus disease cases, with 8,255 deaths and over 387,000 recoveries. The government has been easing quarantine restrictions to reopen the economy after earlier lockdown measures forced the country into recession.

Ang said a secured vaccine supply “is an early Christmas gift for many Filipinos who are coping with the pandemic for eight months now.”

“These vaccines give us hope for the future,” he said.

'Worth the risk'

Galvez said talks are ongoing to purchase one million doses more of the vaccine, expressing confidence in the vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca with the University of Oxford.

Vaccine experts in the US cast doubts on AstraZeneca, especially after it reported two sets of results – 90% efficacy for those given a half dose followed by a full dose the next month and only 62% for those given full doses on both instances. Clinical trials were put on hold twice because government regulators were concerned about two study participants who became seriously ill.

Jaime Montoya, executive director of the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, in an online media briefing said the vaccine experts panel will review documents submitted by AstraZeneca to verify questions on the vaccine efficacy. This is part of its ongoing application to hold clinical trials in the country.

Galvez said the AstraZeneca vaccine is still among the three leading ones that have shown positive results. Meanwhile, Concepcion cited its affordability. Even if the country already paid a 50% downpayment, the supposed loss is nothing compared to the huge economic losses from the pandemic.

“If you compare the price of AstraZeneca compared to other vaccines, it's worth the risk. Even if you make a mistake and this does not work, which is unlikely, you just lose $5,” Concepcion said.

READ: Philippine officials defend AstraZeneca vaccine deal

The government said it is also in talks with other countries and vaccine makers to ensure equitable vaccine supply for Filipinos. It eyes vaccinating at least 25 million people every year starting 2021, expecting 20 million doses from the COVAX global initiative.