MANILA (Reuters) - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte issued an executive order on Wednesday granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to clear COVID-19 drugs and vaccine for emergency use.
The Philippines wants to start immunizing 25 million people next year against the coronavirus, hoping to restore some normalcy after nearly nine months of at times harsh restrictions, and prevent the economy from sinking deeper into recession.
The FDA can now grant emergency use authorization (EUA) if there is reason to believe the drug or vaccine may be effective in preventing, diagnosing or treating COVID-19 and if their potential benefits outweigh possible risks.
EUAs shall also be issued if there is "no adequate, approved and available alternative to the drug or vaccine".
The national procurer or the public health programme implementer can apply for the EUA, said the order.
The Philippines, which has the second most number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in Southeast Asia, is racing to lock in vaccine supplies as it targets to immunize a third of it 108 million population.
The Philippines has been in talks with at least four vaccine makers about supply deals and has so far secured more than two million COVID-19 shots from AstraZeneca.
The British drugmaker's vaccine still has to be approved by regulators.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty)