After months of delay, the country has finally purchased 40 million doses of Pfizer vaccines to boost its efforts in combatting the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), a landmark move that saw the government’s biggest vaccine procurement this year, the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 announced Sunday, June 20.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said he and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III signed the supply agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech, the manufacturers of the vaccine, on June 19.
“We are very happy to report that the government and the management of Pfizer have finally concluded our negotiations. Secretary Duque and I signed yesterday (Saturday) the supply agreement for the biggest and most decisive deal we had for 2021,” Galvez said.
According to the vaccine czar, the deliveries of 40 million doses of Pfizer vaccines will begin in August, or eight weeks after the signing of the supply agreement, while the shipments will be delivered in tranches.
“The vaccine demand has begun to ease up for many big and rich countries as most of them have already acquired more than enough vaccines for their population and have vaccinated many of their citizens. This has allowed the manufacturer to commit to us that deliveries,” he said.
Galvez did not mention the amount of money involved in the vaccine procurement but he noted it will be financed through a multilateral arrangement with the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
He explained that the loan funds from multilateral partners such as the ADB follows a direct disbursement scheme wherein payments are paid directly by the fund manager to the vaccine manufacturer.
“Through this scheme, the Filipino people can be assured that our transactions on vaccine procurement will be transparent as the funds will not pass through the hands of any government official or agency. Wala pong dumadaan na pera sa amin (There is no money that passes through us),” he emphasized.
The vaccine czar said that scheduled delivery of Pfizer will coincide with the opening of the national immunization program to the general population including those under the 12-15 age bracket.
Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amended the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, allowing it to be used for aged 12 to 15.
However, the NTF clarified that the adult population and the vulnerable sector will still be given priority in the vaccination program.
With the latest supply agreement, the Philippines has now secured the delivery of 113 million doses from five manufacturers namely: Sinovac with 26 million doses, Moderna with 20 million doses, Astrazeneca with 17 million doses, Sputnik V with 10 million doses, and Pfizer with 40 million doses.
The COVAX facility has also committed to deliver 44 million doses to the country this year, bringing to 157 million doses the total number of doses secured by the Philippines.
Meanwhile, around 16 million doses from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson are still under negotiation.
At present, around 14 million doses of vaccines have been delivered in the country.
The government plans to inoculate around 70 million Filipinos by year-end to achieve the so-called “population protection” where a majority of the population gets immune from the disease through vaccination.
“The vaccines from Pfizer will significantly boost our national immunization program and will enable us to realize our goal of achieving herd immunity by year-end. This is another positive development that will give a happy and better Christmas for all Filipinos,” an optimistic Galvez said.
The signing of the supply agreement came after Galvez and Duque signed the “term sheet” for the procurement of Pfizer jabs in May.
The supply agreement serves as the “final stage” in the vaccine procurement as it will determine how many doses of vaccines will be allocated for a purchasing country or company.
The initial doses of Pfizer, one of the most effective vaccines in the world, were supposed to arrive in February but the government bungled the deal late last year as a top government official “dropped the ball” for the early access to some 10 million doses.
The government was not able to secure the deal after it failed to provide Pfizer-BioNTech’s indemnification requirement which would exempt the American manufacturer from any litigation in case of an adverse effect on the vaccinees.
But now, Galvez expressed elation since the government was able to secure more doses of Pfizer vaccines.
“I would like to thank my colleagues from the Philippine vaccine negotiating team from the Department of Finance and our multilateral partner for tirelessly working to secure these much-needed shots that will benefit 20 million Filipinos,” he said.