Philippines in talks to pay more for early delivery of COVID-19 vaccines
Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha holds a vial of the CoronaVac Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine, developed by China's Sinovac firm, after the shipment arrived in Bangkok on February 24, 2021.
AFP/Lillian Suwanrumpha

Philippines in talks to pay more for early delivery of COVID-19 vaccines

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - February 25, 2021 - 12:41pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is offering to shell out more money for the early delivery of the highly coveted COVID-19 shots, the country’s vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said.

The country has granted Emergency Use Authorizations to three coronavirus vaccines but none have been delivered and the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is facing criticisms over the delayed vaccine rollout.

“We are negotiating to have early delivery. We are negotiating even if it means a slight increase in costs as long as they could be delivered in the first and second quarters,” Galvez said in Filipino during a televised meeting aired late Wednesday.

He said the country is in talks with the United Kingdom, China, India and Russia to increase the volume of shots that will be delivered this quarter so the government can vaccinate 1.7 million medical frontliners and those from vulnerable groups.

The Philippines initially balked at paying for the vaccines in advance, with Duterte saying in Septmber 2020 that "that’s one thing wrong about the western countries… it’s all profit, profit, profit."

He changed his mind only in November, with the Palace explaining that "if we don’t agree, we might get left behind by countries who would obtain the vaccine."

The Philippines has been, though the Palace has been playing down the delay, saying a few more days of waiting for the rollout of the vaccination program is fine.

The former military general said only 5.1 million of the 161 million doses expected this year will arrive in the country in the first quarter. The bulk of the doses will only come in the second half.

“As you can see, Mr. President, we have a lean supply in the first quarter,” he said.

The first shipments that will reach the country include 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine donated by China as well as 3.5 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca from the COVAX Facility.

Some 24.1 million shots are expected by the second quarter.

The government has already signed term sheets with vaccine makers but it has yet to execute definitive agreements. Its goal is to inoculate up to 70% of the country’s population this year alone.

But due to the shortage of supplies, the “major rollout” will only start in the third quarter at the earliest, Galvez said.

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