Red Cross eyes COVID-19 vaccine deal with AstraZeneca

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 5) - The Philippine Red Cross will "most likely" purchase its own COVID-19 vaccines from British drugmaker AstraZeneca.

"Actually, there's no concrete plan yet, we are in the initial negotiations with the manufacturers. It's mostly likely AstraZeneca," PRC Biomolecular Laboratories head Dr. Paulyn Ubial told CNN Philippines' The Final Word on Tuesday.

Ubial said the PRC is eyeing to buy one million doses from AstraZeneca, and hopefully be made available to the country in the first half of 2021.

"It would be, hopefully within first half of the year and it's about one million doses, so good for 500,000 people," she said.

PRC chairman and senator Richard Gordon already said last December that the organization is willing to help in the country's COVID-19 vaccine rollout. The PRC is also conducting coronavirus testing.

The British vaccine manufacturer approved last December the sale of more COVID-19 vaccines to the country, on top of the 2.6 million doses secured earlier.

Ubial, who is also a former Health secretary, said the government should form an alliance with medical practitioners in its vaccination program.

"You have to get the medical professionals on your side, so that if something happens with the vaccinated child, they are actually your allies and helping you defend the vaccine," she said.

A recent survey showed only 25% of Filipinos in Metro Manila are willing to get a COVID-19 shot when the vaccine becomes available. Meanwhile, 28% of the respondents said they will not get the shot, and 47% are undecided.

Ubial said one possible reason for the hesitancy of some Filipinos could be the hastily done vaccinations in the past.

"It was hastily done in the previous administration," she said. "And the main reason also is there was no social preparation so people were actually surprised that the vaccination program was actually right in front of them."

Aside from AstraZeneca, the national government is also working out deals with other vaccine manufacturers like Sinovac Biotech, Novavax, and Moderna.

No matter what brand will be used, Ubial said acceptance of the vaccine is a "matter of educating the people."

"We have to have scientific forum or scientific meetings to show the health professionals that these vaccines are actually safe and efficacious, all of them, whatever country they came from," she said.