Philippines can’t secure enough Tocilizumab – Galvez

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Philippines canât secure enough Tocilizumab â Galvez
Actemra/RoActemra (tocilizumab)
Screengrab from https: / / www.roche.com /

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is encountering difficulties in securing enough supply of Tocilizumab, a drug administered to COVID-19 patients, a Palace official said yesterday.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) chief implementer, acknowledged the demand for Tocilizumab in many hospitals, but said the government cannot procure enough of the medicine due to tight global supply.

“This is somehow critical because we really don’t have Tocilizumab anymore,” Galvez said during a meeting of the government’s pandemic task force last Wednesday.

“Others are saying, ‘Why, are we not prepared?’ We cannot do anything,” he said. “Actually, we talked to Roche (manufacturer of Tocilizumab) and to the Swiss ambassador. We are really having difficulties in terms of production.”

Galvez said only one company manufactures the drug, which is also used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

“But we can talk to the Swiss ambassador so we can at least become the priority considering that we are experiencing the strongest surge in Southeast Asia,” he said.

Vaccination updates

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the country has topped 40 million.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said a total of 40,030,388 doses of pandemic jabs have been injected as of Sept. 15.

About 22.35 million people or 28.98 percent of the eligible population have received their first dose, while 17.68 million individuals or 22.91 percent have been fully vaccinated.

Over 14 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, composed mostly of Pfizer and Moderna jabs, are set to arrive in the country in the coming weeks, according to the NTF.

Galvez, who is also the vaccine czar, said the incoming supply was boosted by the COVAX Facility’s reallocation of over 10.1 million doses for the Philippines.

“We are very pleased with this good news, especially that many of our local government units, particularly those in the provinces, have started to scale up their vaccine rollout and expand their coverage to include the A4 and A5 priority groups,” Galvez said in a statement.

“These will boost our inoculation program, as we firm up the guidelines on the vaccination of the general public and prepare for the rollout for teenagers or those 12 to 17 years old,” he added.

COVAX’s letter to the NTF explained that the additional doses were decided due to the standard “reallocation process” of the facility.

The vaccines are set to arrive between this week and next month. Last Wednesday night, 753,480 doses of Pfizer vaccines arrived.

Meanwhile, the shipment of 661,200 private sector-procured AstraZeneca vaccine doses is arriving this morning.

Out of the 187.6 million doses secured by the Philippines from different manufacturers and sources for 2021, 56,794,130 doses have been delivered. – Neil Jayson Servallos, Rudy Santos, Ralph Edwin Villanueva

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