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Bacolod, Iloilo Included In Free COVID Vaccine Drive

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Iloilo and Bacolod City are included in the 12 priority areas for the free coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination drive of the Philippine government.

In a press briefing, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the focus areas for the free vaccination are the National Capital Region, Region 4A (CALABARZON), Region 3 (Central Luzon), Davao City, Cebu City, Cagayan de Oro, Baguio City, Bacolod, Iloilo, Zamboanga City, Tacloban City and General Santos City.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. presented the focus areas during the Cabinet meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City recently.

Roque said Pres. Duterte issued guidance to local government units (LGUs) on the continuing imposition of health standards and the equitable access the COVID-19 vaccines.

“Ini-report sa Presidente na ibinababa na sa level ng lokal na pamahalaan ang guidance ng Pangulo tungkol sa COVID-19 na we are not safe until everyone is safe. Kasama sa guidance, which was cascaded to the LGUs (local government units), ang tungkol sa equitable access for the poor and indigents ng bakuna,” Roque said.

The LGUs were told that the priorities in the vaccination drive are health workers, soldiers, police, servicemen and other essential workers.

The Department of Health regional office confirmed that Iloilo and Bacolod are included in the priority areas, but it remains unclear if Iloilo refers to both the city and province which are two separate LGUs.

The Philippines expects to receive 30 million doses of Novavax Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine by July 2021, boosting the country’s effort to secure supplies to inoculate more than 100 million people.

Despite consultations with numerous vaccine makers, the Philippines has so far signed only one supply deal, with the help of its private sector, to acquire 2.6 million shots of a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca.

It plans to buy 25 million doses of a vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech for delivery by March and aims to secure between four and 25 million doses of vaccines from Moderna and Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings Inc.

“Thirty million dosages of the Indian-made Novavax vaccines are assured possibly with no cash advance. It will be available by July 2021,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

He said the information came from Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, and that the terms of the supply deal may be signed before the end of the year.

In a meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte recently, Galvez told the President that the Serum Institute of India promised to set aside 30 million doses of the vaccine for the Philippines.

The Serum Institute has signed a manufacturing agreement with Novavax to manufacture one billion doses of the company’s vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, in 2021.

Galvez said he recently spoke with the institute’s representative and he will meet with him again on Dec 23.

“Siya po ay na-ano po, makakausap po namin siya this coming December 23 at nag-assure po siya na magbibigay po siya ng 30 million doses para po sa atin. Iyon po ay ‘yung Novavax,” said the vaccine czar.

Novavax is still conducting Phase 3 clinical trials for its vaccine in the United States, United Kingdom, and Mexico. It has not published any efficacy rate yet.

Galvez said the government is only waiting for the UK to issue authorization of the Novavax vaccine before signing a contract for the 30 million doses, possibly by the end of the year.

If these doses are secured, 20 million will go to local government units while 10 million will go to the private sector.

Galvez also said Serum Institute may agree not to ask for advance payments for the Novavax vaccines.

“Lately, sir, I spoke with the country representative of Serum India Institute and he said, sir, if I tell you he can comply with RA 9184 (the Government Procurement Act), he is now talking to their head office so that they won’t ask for cash advance,” Galvez told Duterte.
(Francis Allan L. Angel via The Daily Guardian (TDG) with reports from CNN Philippines & Rappler, photo courtesy of TDG)

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