Philippines Eyes China, Russia For Early Vaccine Access

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: A staff member checks vaccines during a media tour of a new factory built to produce a COVID-19 vaccine at Sinovac, one of 11 Chinese companies approved to carry out clinical trials of potential coronavirus vaccines, in Beijing on September 24, 2020. (Photo: WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: A staff member checks vaccines during a media tour of a new factory built to produce a COVID-19 vaccine at Sinovac, one of 11 Chinese companies approved to carry out clinical trials of potential coronavirus vaccines, in Beijing on September 24, 2020. (Photo: WANG ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images)

By Andreo Calonzo

The Philippines expects to start administering coronavirus vaccines as early as the first quarter of next year, pinning its hopes on China and Russia as its own procurement policies hamper efforts for early access.

The best-case scenario is to start inoculations next quarter using shots from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Russia’s Sputnik V, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said at a virtual briefing in Manila on Wednesday. Sinovac has pledged to ship vaccines to the Philippines at least 60 days after a deal is signed, he said.

The Philippines, which has the second-worst outbreak in Southeast Asia, is behind neighbors like Indonesia and Thailand on vaccine procurement. Policies like a ban on advance orders and a law requiring Phase IV trials before procurement are constraining efforts to secure shots, Galvez said.

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the nation’s Food and Drug Administration to allow emergency use of vaccines that have data from “adequate and well-known controlled trials.” The order, released on Wednesday, will cut approval process to three weeks from six months, his spokesman earlier said. Plans to remove more roadblocks to vaccine procurement are underway, Galvez said.

“The relationship of the president with the leaders of Russia and China can be maximized,” businessman and Duterte adviser Joey Concepcion said at the same briefing.

Some 2.6 million doses from AstraZeneca Plc. ordered by private companies are expected to arrive in the Philippines as early as May, while it’s in talks with several others. Daily infections have decreased for a third month in November, bringing total cases to over 434,000 as of Wednesday.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.