NTF mulls flying to India to negotiate arrival of COVID-19 vaccines

Published February 19, 2021, 3:33 PM

by Martin Sadongdong

Top officials of the National Task Force (NTF) Against Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) are planning to go to India to discuss the possible early delivery of Novavax vaccines to the Philippines, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said Friday, Feb. 19.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19 (NTF AGAINST COVID-19 / MANILA BULLETIN)

This, as Galvez said that the separate deal the government has with the Covax facility–led by the World Health Organization (WHO)–for the delivery of the American-made Pfizer-BioNTech and British, Swedish-made AstraZeneca vaccines is still being negotiated.

“We are trying our best, maybe one of these days we might go to India where more or less two to three billion doses will be produced by the Serum Institute of India. It is where we bought a big bulk of Novavax vaccines,” Galvez said during a visit of the Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) Team in the municipality of Pateros.

The country was assured of at least 30 million doses of Novavax vaccines, to be delivered possibly in July 2021, by the Serum Institute of India.

Meanwhile, NTF officials and Philippine Ambassador to United States Jose Manuel Romualdez met with Covax and Gavi executives on Friday to talk about the status of their deals after the government signed indemnification agreements to ensure the delivery of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines within the first and second quarter of 2021 — possibly the latest of which is late February.

The indemnification agreements will ensure that the manufacturers will be free from “unnecesary” litigation should adverse effects are observed from patients inoculated with the vaccines, Galvez explained.

Galvez did not divulge other details of the meeting but he said Gavi executives from New York assured them that the Philippines is “almost on top of the priorities” of the Covax facility.

“Our negotiation with the Covax facility is still ongoing. We are hopeful that the Covax will fulfill their commitment to bring us their 44 million doses in the first and second quarter [of 2021],” he said.

The indemnification requirement is supposedly one of the reasons why the slated delivery of 117,000 doses of Pfizer jabs to the country by mid-February was delayed.

Galvez said the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine mess in 2017 played a big part why manufacturers are more careful now in entering deals with countries with no indemnification law, such as the Philippines.

While the government has already signed the indemnification requirements of Covax, Galvez said separate agreements will have to be made with the Pfizer-BioNTEch and AstraZeneca since they also have separate bilateral deals with them for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

NTF officials led by Galvez will meet with Pfizer executives on Monday, Feb. 21, to discuss their indemnification requirements while the NTF’s meeting with AstraZeneca executives has yet to be announced.