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Pfizer to ensure supply of COVID-19 vaccine for PH, says envoy to US

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez said American pharmaceutical company Pfizer will ensure supply for the Philippines of its COVID-19 vaccine after it is approved for distribution.

His assurance comes after Pfizer announced that its vaccine candidate proved 90% effective in an initial study of its Phase 3 clinical trials, a ray of hope for people all over the world weary of the ongoing pandemic.

"As long as they get approval and we tell them what we need, they're ready to supply it," said Romualdez on Monday, November 9. A video of his remarks were shown to the Malacañang Press Corps on Tuesday.

The Philippines and other countries, however, may have to wait a little longer as Pfizer is prioritizing the United States for its vaccine production this year.

"Of course, their production this year, the United States will go first because they need 100 million vaccine [doses]," said Romualdez in Filipino.

The ambassador pegged the cost of the Pfizer vaccine at $5 a shot, or around P240 a shot.

The US government had ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine for $1.95 billion, which puts the price per dose at $19.50.

Pfizer, said Romualdez, was the first American pharmaceutical firm to get in touch with him. He had been contact with other companies like Moderna "3 to 4 months ago" and these talks were supposedly the fruit of discussions between Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last April.

When will it arrive in the Philippines?

Romualdez estimates that, if all is smooth-sailing, the Pfizer vaccine could get approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration within the year and Philippine FDA approval early next year.

This could then mean an initial batch of the Pfizer vaccine arriving in the Philippines "by early next year" or "first quarter" of next year.

Romualdez said Pfizer has not asked for any "downpayment" but only a "purchase order" signifying the Philippine government's commitment to buy a certain amount of vaccine doses.

Another way a supply of the Pfizer vaccine could reach the country is through the Philippine private sector. Romualdez said Filipino businessmen have expressed willingness to pay for the vaccines so they can provide these to their employees.

Duterte's economic managers are targeting a fund of P20 billion to be used to purchase COVID-19 vaccines, likely from a variety of suppliers.

This fund will come from a loan to be provided by the Land Bank and the Development Bank of the Philippines, two government financial institutions. The loan will be given to the Philippine International Trading Corp, which has been authorized to purchase vaccines for the government.

This fund is to shoulder only an "initial" batch of vaccines.

Apart from this, there's a P2.5-billion allocation for vaccines in the proposed 2021 national budget.

The economic team will have to look for more funding sources after Duterte promised to shoulder the cost of vaccines for all 107 million Filipinos. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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