PH envoy: 2 US firms ready to supply up to 25M doses of coronavirus vaccines

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 18) — After the delay in Pfizer vaccine talks, a Philippine envoy on Friday disclosed that two other US biopharmaceutical firms have expressed that they are ready to supply 4 million to 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines by the second half of 2021.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez said Moderna and Arcturus already gave their commitment to the Philippines.

"I am pleased to report that aside from Pfizer, Moderna and Arcturus are ready to supply the Philippines anywhere between 4-25M of their respective vaccines starting Q3 of 2021," he said in a statement.

Romualdez said the Philippine government has to "find their proposals acceptable" before procurement deals can be sealed. He urged the authorities to consider the promising results of the two vaccine candidates.

The US FDA is widely expected to grant emergency use authorization for Moderna's vaccine candidate after its advisory panel voted to recommend it. The vaccine's efficacy against COVID-19 was 94.1%, occurring at least 14 days after the second dose, according to a briefing document released by an advisory committee to the US FDA.

Meanwhile, biotech firm Arcturus Therapeutics said it expects to start distributing its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which is co-developed by Singapore scientists, in the first quarter of next year after the Phase 1 and 2 of its clinical trial showed encouraging results.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. on Tuesday tweeted that he and Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez were able to secure 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine to arrive in the country by January 2021, but plans were foiled because "someone dropped the ball." Romualdez said the vaccine arrival will most likely be delayed by a few months because other nations were able to finalize deals earlier than the Philippines.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, after discussing with Romualdez and Locsin, revealed that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III bungled the deal brokered by the Philippine diplomats by “failing to work on the necessary documentary requirement.”

Duque denied the allegations, saying he worked on the papers as soon as they arrived in his office. He said he pored over them to make sure the deal is not onerous. Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. also came to his defense, saying the claim that 10 million doses could have been immediately secured if it were not for Duque is “impossible.”

Philippine officials are continuing talks with Pfizer to hopefully close a deal for vaccine supplies, but Romualdez said the number of doses will be down to five million.

The Duterte administration is still banking on Chinese-manufactured vaccine Sinovac to be the first vaccine to reach the Philippines. Roque on Tuesday said Sinovac is the only brand that can provide supply at the earliest time possible, which is in March or April 2021. The government is looking to secure up to 25 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine, even if the Chinese drug maker has not yet disclosed results of its phase 3 clinical trials to prove it is safe and effective.

The country has so far formally secured 2.6 million doses of vaccine from British drug maker AstraZeneca, which are expected to arrive in the second quarter of 2021.The deal was closed through a ₱600-million donation from over 30 private companies. The company has also agreed to provide another batch of vaccines, officials said.