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Pfizer vaccine can't be rolled out in all provinces due to lack of facilities – Roque

Filipinos living in certain provinces in the Philippines will likely miss out on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because of the lack of ultracold-storage facilities, Malacañang said on Tuesday, January 12.

The Pfizer vaccine has reported the highest efficacy against COVID-19, 95%, out of other vaccines so far.

"Pero hindi naman lahat 'yan pwede piliin ng ating mga kababayan dahil 'yung Pfizer po, kinakailangan ng -70 [degrees Celsius], ibig sabihin po, para lang po 'yan sa Manila, Cebu, Davao na may mga cold-storage facility," said Roque during a Palace news briefing.

(Our countrymen can't choose any vaccine because the Pfizer vaccine requires -70 degrees Celsius, this means it can only be for Manila, Cebu, Davao which have cold-storage facilities.)

"Hindi po talagang magagamit 'yan sa mga probinsya dahil wala tayong mga facilities," continued the Duterte spokesman. (It can't be used in the provinces because we don't have facilities.)

The Pfizer vaccine requires storage in temperatures between -80 and -60 degrees Celsius, according to the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prospects of Pfizer vaccine

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr had earlier said that the Pfizer vaccine could arrive in the country as early as February if the GAVI COVAX Facility pushes through with its early roll-out of vaccines to participating developing countries.

The Pfizer vaccine is part of the multilateral initiative for equitable access to inoculations.

Also in February, the government is expecting a delivery of the vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinovac. Their vaccine, CoronaVac, does not require ultracold storage.

Defending vaccine program

In the same press conference, Roque defended the government's policy of not letting priority sectors like healthcare workers, senior citizens, and indigents to choose which COVID-19 vaccine they will get.

He said that all vaccines that will be rolled out by government would have gone through processes to ensure its safety and efficacy.

"All vaccines, as long as they pass the FDA, they are proven safe and proven effective... Hindi na po importante kung ano 'yung brand (The brand is not important)," said Roque.

The Philippines is following the World Health Organization minimum requirement of 50% vaccine efficacy.

Some Phase 3 trials of the Sinovac vaccine showed an efficacy of as much as 78%, higher than efficacy ratings of AstraZeneca, for example.

But a new report from Brazil clinical trials showed a less than 60% efficacy rating of the Chinese vaccine. – 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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