COVID-19 vaccination could begin in May 2021 – Galvez

Robie de Guzman   •   November 5, 2020   •   414

MANILA, Philippines – Government’s vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. on Thursday said the inoculation of the COVID-19 vaccine could start by May 2021 if everything will go as planned.

Galvez said the National Task Force against COVID-19 is looking to immediately begin the immunization once the vaccine becomes available in the world market.

“Just in case magkaroon na po tayo ng mass production ay pwede na po tayo at the mid of 2021. Tumingin tayo ng worst-case scenario before the end of 2021, realistically considering the constraint of different supply chain na ano natin talagang worldwide po ang demand ng vaccine” he said.

Galvez said he met with officials from the Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday to discuss plans for the COVID-19 vaccination program.

He also coordinated with the vaccine expert panel, and logistics and procurement experts to tackle arrangements, and the storage and delivery of the vaccines and other issues.

Galvez said a national vaccine road map will be submitted for the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte.

This road map entails measures on how to procure, store, and deliver the vaccines, as well as identify individuals who may avail of the vaccines.

Galvez said the government is targeting to procure an initial 24 million vaccines in the first quarter of 2021.

He said Duterte wants to make the vaccines accessible, especially to poor communities.

“Itong sa vaccination, we will make it very accessible to the public particularly sa ating most vulnerable people tsaka mga indigent. The President already gave us the instruction na uunahin talaga ang ating mga poor communities at vulnerable sectors,” he said.

Galvez said the government is preparing to establish a cold chain as vaccines need to be stored at sub-zero temperatures.

He is also looking to coordinate with the military and police, and othee agencies to ensure transparency and the proper distribution of vaccines.

“Para doon po sa directive ng ating mahal na Presidente na hindi ma-politicalize, we will involve the services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, DSWD, and also the PNP and other service uniformed men […] tsaka hindi po ito highly-politicized,” Galvez said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

FDA clarifies donated vaccines require authorization, evaluation

Marje Pelayo   •   January 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement on Wednesday (January 21) clarifying that donated COVID-19 vaccines still require FDA authorization in the form of Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) prior to use.

The statement came after some senators in a recent Senate hearing, raised concerns on the issue of donated vaccines from China.

The FDA said, “Entities which intend to donate vaccines to the government are required to coordinate with the Department of Health (DOH) which will facilitate the acceptance and processing of the donation.”

The agency further noted that the proposed donations will be evaluated by the DOH in consideration to the need of beneficiaries, reliability of the source shelf life and other relevant criteria.

“Only after authorization of the FDA may the DOH distribute the products to the intended beneficiaries,” FDA said.

FDA stressed that “the approval of the donated product does not mean free use thereof. FDA’s authorization is limited to the donated lot and carries conditions for use depending on the nature of the donated product.”

The DOH is also mandated to take full responsibility for the use of the donated vaccines, given that the product has been granted EUA by the FDA which ensures its safety, quality and efficacy. MNP/Raymund David

Lacson accepts Galvez’s apology over ‘politicizing’ remark on COVID-19 vaccine issue

Robie de Guzman   •   January 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday said he has accepted the apology of vaccine czar and National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. for his previous remark accusing some senators of politicizing the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

“I accepted his apology. He promised to be more careful in issuing statements,” Lacson said in a statement.

The senator said Galvez apologized during a meeting with him, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, and contact tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong on Wednesday.

But prior to their meeting, Lacson said he received a message from Magalong, relaying Galvez’s request to meet with him to apologize for his remarks during virtual meeting last week.

“He also promised to brief me and disclose all the details of their vaccine procurement, including the prices of the different brands,” he said.

“Then came the instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte to Sec. Galvez to brief Senate President Vicente Sotto III. I suggested to them that SP Sotto and I just go together, along with Sen. Ronald de la Rosa,” he added.

During the meeting, Lacson said that Galvez was able to clarify “a lot of issues and concerns raised by senators that have remained unresolved until last night.”

“We advised him to explain in tomorrow’s hearing the same way that he did last night, without violating the terms of the agreement with the vaccine suppliers,” he added.

The Senate is set to resume its inquiry on Friday, January 22 on the government’s nationwide immunization plan.

Lacson said he was satisfied with Galvez’s briefing but advised the official to be vigilant against any irregularity that may be taking place without his knowledge.

“We were shown the documents. And we have no doubt about Sec. Galvez’s integrity and his sincerity to accomplish his task,” he said.

“That said, we advised Sec. Galvez to mind his back, front, left and right sides. He may have the best of intentions but there may be people pushing him out front to do the talking and explaining to take advantage of his credibility while pursuing their own interests,” he added.

Lacson said that Galvez has assured senators that he will make it “very hard for those people to even have an opening for that opportunity.”

India’s Bharat Biotech applies for EUA in Phl for COVID-19 vaccines

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 21, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Indian biotechnology company Bharat Biotech has applied for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in the country for its COVID-19 vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration, in a message, has confirmed that Bharat Biotech submitted their application for Covaxin on Wednesday (January 20) and pre-evaluation is already ongoing.

“They submitted an application this morning and pre-evaluation is going on,” according to FDA Director-General Eric Domingo.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the biotech company said that Covaxin is ideal for tropical countries because storage temperature only needs to be set by two to eight degrees celsius.

Bharat Biotech also said the Philippines is among the list of priority countries that will receive Covaxin supply.

“The Philippines is among the list of priority countries that Bharat Biotech will allocate supplies of Covaxin to. It was announced earlier this week that the Indian government has issued a letter of comfort covering this,” the company said in a statement.

Other companies seeking EUA in the country include Astrazeneca, Gamaleya Research Institute, and Sinovac Biotech. -AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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