More Western vaccines coming this June - envoy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 24) — More COVID-19 vaccines from the United States are set to arrive in the Philippines next month to help ramp up the country's vaccination drive, the country's envoy to the US said Monday.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez said additional supply via the World Health Organization-backed COVAX facility may come as early as the second week of June.

"Actually, they’re beginning to put it together. From what I understand, perhaps as early as second week of June. They should be expecting some of the vaccines will be going to the Philippines," said Romualdez, referring to a portion of the 80 million doses that the US will be sharing with different countries.

READ: Biden announces US will share more vaccines globally: 'Our nation is going to be the arsenal of vaccines' 

Romualdez said the Philippines may be given around 2 million more doses from British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca, apart from the 2.2 million Pfizer vaccine doses via COVAX which were promised to arrive by the end of May.

By June 21, about 300,000 initial doses from US firm Moderna are also expected to arrive, with supply to be bumped up in the succeeding months with the delivery of the rest of the 20 million total doses secured by the country, he added. .

The Philippines has also signed a term sheet for the procurement of 40 million doses of Pfizer vaccine, which will be coursed through COVAX "at a very special price" to get easier access, Romualdez said. No specific date was mentioned on their arrival.

"We are procuring that through COVAX. We are also a member or donor of the facility, so we are getting a special price and the special price we’re getting from Pfizer is through the COVAX," he added.

However, the Department of Health made a clarification on Romualdez’s statement, saying the Philippines cannot procure COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX unless "we order on top of what has been allocated" to the country. The procurement of 40-million Pfizer doses will be procured funded from multilateral organizations, the agency added.

The Philippine and US governments are also working at getting booster shots from Moderna and Pfizer, which may be combined with other brands initially administered to protect more Filipinos. Romualdez said after a possible regulatory approval by October, these can be made available by the end of the year or early next year, should the effectivity of the initial shots start to wane.

Romualdez added that he is also coordinating with vaccine czar Carlito Galvez in trying to get 5 million more one-shot doses from US drugmaker Johnson & Johnson to reach people in the rural areas and achieve the Philippines' herd immunity target at the soonest possible time. Supply may arrive at around August or September, he said.

By June, the Philippine government will finally include economic and national government frontliners in the simultaneous inoculation drive with health workers, senior citizens, and other priority groups as more vaccines are expected to arrive in the country.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in his briefing on Monday that 4 million doses have already been administered in the country as of Sunday.

Up to 70 million Filipinos must be vaccinated by the end of the year to achieve herd immunity and protect the population against rising coronavirus cases and even faster-spreading variants.

RELATED: TIMELINE: COVID-19 vaccine deliveries and rollout in the Philippines