COVID vaccines may not be available for commercial use this year

Published January 13, 2021, 3:45 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

Coronavirus vaccines may not yet be available for commercial use in the country this year.

According to Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, people cannot yet buy the vaccine in the market since the emergency use authorization (EUA) to be given by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not cover commercial use.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles

The government has so far secured millions of supplies from vaccine makers Covovax, Sinovac, and AstraZeneca, that are expected to be delivered to the county this year. Frontline health workers, seniors, poor citizens, and uniformed personnel will be among the priority beneficiaries of the government’s free COVID-19 vaccines.

“Hindi po, dahil na-explain na ito ng FDA head natin, si Director General Domingo, na these vaccines because of the novelty ‘no, itong bagong bakuna na ito, mga bakuna that’s available, they apply for emergency use application dito sa bansa. And an EUA is actually not for commercial purposes (No, FDA head director general (Eric) Domingo has explained these vaccines, because of the novelty of these vaccines available, they apply for emergency use application in the country and an EUA is actually not for commercial purposes),” Nograles said during a televised press briefing Tuesday, when asked if the vaccines will be available in the market this year.

Given the limited vaccine supply that will be for emergency use, Nograles explained that any acquisition will go through the national government. He said local government units and the private sector could forge supply deals with the manufacturers but under a tripartite arrangement with the national government

“When the LGUs speak to the pharmaceutical companies, it’s also through a tripartite agreement with the national government na kasama doon sa tripartite agreement na iyan only because the unique characteristics of the vaccines that are available specifically for COVID-19 is an EUA application not just in the Philippines but in the entire world,” he said.

“Lahat ng binibigay ng mga FDA ng iba’t ibang mga bansa is EUA (The FDAs in other countries give only EUA) and by the nature of the emergency use application, it is only through the national government. Why? Because, again, there is a limited number of vaccines available,” he added.

Nograles said around 70 million Filipinos could be vaccinated under the programs initiated by the national government, local government, and the private sector. At least 75 billion will be set aside by the national government for the acquisition of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Of the 25 million COVID-19 vaccines developed by Sinovac, an initial 50,000 doses will be shipped to the country next month. The remaining supply will be delivered in the following months.

Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Gamaleya have pending applications for EUA before the local drug regulators. Once the EUA is granted, the government can start to administer the drugs for its massive immunization drive.