Duterte to also welcome AstraZeneca arrival
President Duterte presides over a meeting with IATF-EID core members prior to his address to the people at Malacañang the other day.

Duterte to also welcome AstraZeneca arrival

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - March 3, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — To prove that the Philippines is a grateful nation, President Duterte will also be personally receiving AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccines, which are expected to arrive next week in Manila.

“(Duterte) is on standby to also be at the airport to receive the delivery of the COVAX vaccine AstraZeneca, whenever it will happen,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said yesterday.

Duterte directed his aides last Monday to ensure that he could also be at the airport for the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccines, which has been delayed reportedly due to shortage in global supply.

The President wants to personally see the delivery of the vaccines, which was made possible through the COVAX Facility and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Duterte is ready to fly in from Davao to Manila, if necessary.

Roque said the President also wants to thank the WHO and the United Kingdom for facilitating the procurement of the vaccines, which was made possible through the intercession of British Ambassador Daniel Pruce.

Last Sunday, Duterte went out of his way to welcome the Chinese military plane that carried the first 600,000 Sinovac vaccines from Beijing. The Philippines has ordered about one million more vaccines from Sinovac that are expected to arrive within the month.


The shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines is being delayed due to two bottlenecks on the global level, the WHO said yesterday.

WHO country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe said the requirements related to AstraZeneca vaccines have already been completed.

The Philippines was expecting to receive some 500,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines last March 1 through the WHO’s COVAX facility, but those did not materialize.

Abeyasinghe said the WHO is now looking at how it can “accelerate” the delivery of the vaccines to the country.

“That was identified as a tentative date. We are looking at how we can accelerate delivery,” he said in a television interview.

The WHO official also underscored that on the global level, they are seeing two bottlenecks for the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccines.

First is that pharmaceutical companies could not meet the manufacturing targets for the vaccines.

“These are biological processes and they could not produce the quantities they anticipated they could early on,” Abeyasinghe said.

The other bottleneck is on the delivery process.

“These vaccines need to be transported. Maintaining cold chain requirements and logistic handlers are having challenges in ensuring large shipments of vaccines across the world,” Abeyasinghe said.

He added that 190 countries have signed up to the COVAX facility, anticipating to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

The WHO official said the “consignments are ready and just logistics arrangements are being made.”

“So once we have a finalization and a confirmed itinerary of the delivery, we will share that information… I don’t want to create any expectations until we have a firm date,” he added.

Sinopharm EUA

Meanwhile, Duterte is waiting for the approval of the emergency use application (EUA) of Chinese vaccine maker Sinopharm, Malacañang said yesterday.

Duterte is a senior citizen, but he is not expected to be among the first to be inoculated in the government’s vaccination program.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend administering Sinovac vaccines – the first COVID-19 shots to arrive in the country – to health workers and senior citizens despite the approval of its EUA. The China-made vaccine posted only a 50.4-percent efficacy rate among health care workers exposed to the coronavirus.

Last Monday, Roque said a Palace legal team is studying whether the 75-year-old Duterte can be vaccinated with jabs manufactured by Sinopharm, which has secured a compassionate use license. The issue, however, has become moot and academic because Sinopharm has already applied for EUA, according to the Palace spokesman.

“That question is already moot and academic because the President will be waiting for the EUA because I reported yesterday (March 1) that Sinopharm has applied for EUA. He will just wait for the approval of Sinopharm,” Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

In an interview, FDA director general Eric Domingo said Sinopharm submitted an application online Monday afternoon.

“We are looking at the documents now to see if the documents are complete or if there are any documents that need to be submitted before we officially accept the application,” Domingo added.

In December last year, the Presidential Security Group (PSG) admitted that some of its members had received COVID-19 shots ahead of the FDA’s approval of the local use of COVID-19 vaccines.

PSG chief Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III defended the vaccination, saying Duterte’s security aides need to ensure that they do not pose a threat to the President’s health and safety.

Last Sunday, Duterte, who has expressed readiness to be vaccinated in public, said he would heed his doctor’s advice on what COVID-19 shot to get.

“We have to be careful. I have my own doctor. She thinks that another brand… I will not mention it, I will just wait for it. She is waiting for it,” the President said at a press conference at Villamor Airbase.

“On the matter of getting the vaccine, it is to my advantage. It is to my self-interest that I should get one. No doubt about it. As to what brand, that’s the problem because it is left to the sound discretion of my doctor,” he added.

Clinical trials

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire yesterday said Janssen Pharmaceuticals is conducting clinical trials in the country for its two-dose regiment COVID-19 vaccines.

Vergeire added that Janssen is looking at the possibility that the two-dose vial is more efficacious against the coronavirus or will give higher immunity.

Aside from Janssen, the FDA had also allowed Sinovac and Clover Biopharmaceuticals to do clinical trials in the Philippines. – Sheila Crisostomo, Alexis Romero

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