500k Sinovac boosters eyed for health workers - Galvez

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 2) — China's Sinovac Biotech wants to donate 500,000 booster shots to Filipino health workers, but no go-signal has been given yet for their distribution, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. bared Thursday.

"Yes, they (Sinovac) are even asking if they can even donate 500,000 initially for our health workers," Galvez told CNN Philippines' The Source.

"But I think the (World Health Organization) has given the announcement that we don't need yet boosters," he added. "We are just waiting for the guidance of the WHO and also by the (Department of Health)."

Sinovac is currently the biggest supplier of COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines, with close to 30 million out of the country's 52 million doses received overall.

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

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante, who is a member of the Philippines' vaccine expert panel, previously warned against the "waning" efficacy of Sinovac against the Delta variant after six months of protection.

Citing a recent study in Thailand, he said the vaccine's level of protection against Delta variant dropped to 48.33% six months after receiving the second dose. This is lower than the 93.33% efficacy of neutralizing antibodies that protect a person from the virus following a recent COVID-19 infection.

READ: Sinovac vaccine's efficacy vs Delta 'wanes' after 6 months expert 

Booster deals ongoing with four vaccine manufacturers

Meanwhile, Galvez said the government is now negotiating with four vaccine manufacturers for the supply of booster shots that can be delivered either by fourth quarter of this year or early first quarter of 2022.

Galvez said the government has already set aside a ₱45 billion budget to lock in the promised boosters.

"Actually right now we are...looking at the possibility that we are signing some term sheet, yung tinatawag na (what we call) non-binding term sheet in order to lock in for boosters," he said.

Galvez did not indicate whether Sinovac was among the four unnamed booster providers, but he said the additional doses that will be given by these manufacturers have already been "tweaked" to withstand different variants of the coronavirus.

He added that other brands have already assured giving the country "second-generation" vaccines that would protect fully vaccinated individuals from infections.

"Yun ang maganda, yung Pfizer, Sinovac, Moderna and other vaccines may give us yung tinatawag nating second-generational procurement," he noted.

[Translation: That is good, Pfizer, Sinovac, Moderna, and other vaccines may give us what we call second-generational procurement.]