MANILA, Philippines — Efforts to acquire COVID-19 vaccines from India have hit a snag after Indian authorities placed under lockdown an area where Philippine officials would have gone to negotiate for faster delivery of the vaccines.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. and his team were supposed to leave for India last Thursday to work for the immediate shipment of the vaccines.
“Unfortunately, lockdown was imposed in the place where they were supposed to go, they were set to leave. Their trip to India was delayed, it was delayed by 14 days because of lockdown imposed in the place in India where the vaccines are being manufactured,” Roque said at a press briefing on Thursday.
The Food and Drug Administration has not issued yet an emergency use authorization (EUA) for India’s Novavax, which reportedly has 96 percent efficacy rate against the original COVID-19 virus, and 86 percent against the variant first detected in the United Kingdom. Novavax has an overall efficacy of over 89 percent, reports said.
Initial reports said the Philippine government is working for the procurement of 30 million doses of Novavax vaccine produced at the Serum Institute of India. The target arrival date of the vaccine doses in the country is July 2021.
Novavax, however, remains under clinical trials in various countries. It hopes to get EUA from the United States by the second quarter of this year.
Regardless, Roque said Galvez and his team are determined to pursue their mission in India.
Although Novavax is made in India, Roque said it’s a US firm that developed the vaccine.
At a meeting with President Duterte last Thursday, Galvez said he and his team are amenable to get the vaccines at a higher price to corner the supply so that a rollout can be initiated immediately.
Meanwhile, security measures are now in place to ensure the smooth arrival this weekend of some 600,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Sinovac of China, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said yesterday. A Chinese military aircraft carrying the vaccine doses is scheduled to arrive at the Villamor Air Base.
“The PNP security preparation is in place,” Lt. Gen. Gen. Cesar Binag, deputy director for operations, said in a text message.
Binag said there could be some adjustments depending on earlier simulation exercises.
The security plan covers the arrival of the vaccines at airports and seaports, their transport to cold storage facilities and eventually to vaccination centers.
Sen. Bong Go said he is set to join President Duterte in witnessing the arrival and turnover tomorrow of the first batch of donated Sinovac vaccines from China.
“Just a simple turnover; the President and I are glad that there’s finally an arrival in February. On the last day of February the vaccines will arrive,” Go said at Veterans Golf Club in Quezon City where he delivered assistance to employees.
He said the cargo of vaccine doses is expected to arrive at 5 p.m.
He said that as a legislator, he had been badgering vaccine czar Galvez and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to act fast as the President’s patience was wearing thin.
Asked about the government’s other vaccine orders, Go said no specific date for their arrival has been set.
He added that he and Galvez have sought the help of British ambassador Daniel Pruce in expediting the delivery of vaccines promised by the COVAX Facility.
Go said COVAX has not set dates yet for the arrival of 117,000 doses from Pfizer and 5,500 from AstraZeneca. – Emmanuel Tupas
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