Philippines orders a million more shots of Chinese CoronaVac

PHILIPPINE STAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE PHILIPPINE government has ordered a million more doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by Chinese drug maker Sinovac Biotech Ltd. worth P700 million that would arrive this month, according to the country’s vaccine czar.

The CoronaVac vaccines would come in two batches and are part of the 5.1 million doses of different vaccine brands expected this quarter, vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. told an online news briefing on Monday.

Also arriving this month are about 3.5 million vials from AstraZeneca Plc under a global initiative for equal access. The government on Sunday took delivery of 600,000 CoronaVac shots donated by China.

The government is in talks with more drug makers for more COVID-19 vaccines, including America’s Moderna, Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, Inc and Serum Institute of India, Mr. Galvez said.

The Philippines failed to get about 117,000 doses from Pfizer, Inc. last month after the government failed to sign documents freeing the company from potential lawsuits on time.

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Mr. Galvez said would fly to India next week to sign supply agreements with Serum Institute and Novavax.

Meanwhile, Chinese drug maker Sinopharm Group Co., Ltd. has asked the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow the emergency use of its coronavirus vaccine, presidential spokesman Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. said at the same news briefing.

But the FDA said it was not aware of the application. “As of last Friday, I haven’t heard of an application from Sinopharm for emergency use authorization,” FDA Director General Rolando Enrique D. Domingo told a separate news briefing in Filipino.

“I don’t know if they applied at the weekend,” he added. The FDA, which is based in Muntinlupa City, was closed on Monday for a local holiday.

Mr. Domingo said it would take longer for them to decide on Sinopharm’s application since it had not received an emergency use authorization from any stringent regulatory bodies in other countries.

It may take as long as six weeks, he said.

The FDA earlier allowed the compassionate use of 10,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines for members of the Presidential Security Group, which used the drugs without regulatory approval.

Ramon T. Tulfo, Jr., the country’s special envoy to China, earlier said he and other high-ranking government officials had also been injected with Sinopharm vaccines last year.

Mr. Roque said the presidential legal team was studying whether President Rodrigo R. Duterte, as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, is covered by the compassionate use authorization for Sinopharm.

Only the shots developed by America’s Pfizer, Inc. British drug maker AstraZeneca Plc, and Sinovac have been approved for emergency use in the Philippines so far. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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