US gives P170M support for Philippines’ COVID-19 vaccine deployment

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2021   •   244

MANILA, Philippines – The United States (US) government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has provided P170 million or $3.5 million funds to support the Philippines in its COVID-19 vaccination rollout, the US Embassy in Manila said Thursday.

U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law announced this during a visit to a vaccination site in Caloocan City with Philippine Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III, Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan, USAID Philippines Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II, and other U.S. and Philippine officials.

The embassy said the new assistance will support the Philippines in strengthening the vaccine supply chain, monitoring vaccine safety, and delivering effective communication campaigns to address vaccine hesitancy.

It will also support local government units as they plan for, track, and administer vaccines, it added.

“While the pandemic has tested our peoples and our economies, the strong bonds between Americans and Filipinos will help us rise above this challenge,” Law said.

“We will continue to fight this unprecedented global health crisis together,” he added.

The latest assistance fund brings the total U.S. government support for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response to nearly P1.3 billion ($27 million), the embassy said.

Meanwhile, the embassy further reported that the White House recently announced a P194 billion ($4 billion) commitment to support the COVAX facility.

COVAX Facility is a global initiative to support early vaccine access for 92 countries, including the Philippines.

An initial P97.2-billion ($2 billion) contribution, provided through USAID, is supporting the purchase and delivery of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the embassy said.

The Philippines has so far administered over 1.2 million vaccine doses out of the more than 3 million doses that were delivered in the country.

Government data showed that 1,093,651 people received their first shot while 162,065 individuals already got two doses since the vaccination program started on March 1.

 

DOH studying possibility of mixing vaccine brands – FDA

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) is currently looking into the possibility of mixing different brands of vaccines against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Thursday.

FDA director general Eric Domingo said the DOH is already drafting a set of guidelines that will allow a person to receive different brands of COVID-19 vaccines for first and second dose in case of severe allergic reaction and other adverse effects.

Aaralin po ngayon yan ng Department of Health, in fact, meron naman po talagang ongoing meetings ang Department of Health on that dahil meron po talagang instances na for example naturukan ka ng bakuna ng first dose tapos nagka-severe allergy ka so hindi ka na puwede sa second dose nun at kailangang isipin ngayon yung magiging alternative,” Domingo said during the Laging Handa briefing.

“Gumagawa na ng guidelines ngayon ang DOH kung paano ‘yung interchangeability or mixing ng vaccines in case the second dose cannot be given na identical doon sa first dose,” he added.

Domingo said this after President Rodrigo Duterte said he has requested China to recall the 1,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines it donated following criticisms over his decision to receive a jab that has yet to secure an emergency use authorization from the FDA.

Duterte received his first dose of Sinopharm vaccine on Monday night.

Malacañang earlier said that the vaccine dose used on the president was covered by the compassionate special permit issued by the FDA for the Presidential Security Group.

DND’s Lorenzana backs Duterte remark on arbitral ruling on WPS vs China

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday expressed agreement with President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent remark on the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) favoring the Philippines in its case against China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“What President Duterte said last night regarding the PCA ruling is correct,” Lorenzana said in a statement, referring to Duterte’s statement that nothing happened when he tried to assert the arbitral ruling on the Philippines’ rights in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea.

In a pre-taped public address on Wednesday night, Duterte said he tried to pursue the arbitral ruling when he came to power in 2016 but “nothing happened,” adding that the ruling was “just a piece of paper” that can be tossed into a waste basket.

Lorenzana said he agrees with the President when he said that there is no international law enforcement body that can enforce the ruling.

He, however, stressed that even without the PCA ruling, the Philippine government will still continue to defend “what is rightfully ours.”

“As I said in my previous statement, the President’s orders have been firm and straightforward: we defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas,” he said.

Lorenzana also said that Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will continue conducting maritime exercises in the West Philippine Sea and the Kalayaan Island Group.

The National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea earlier said that it has intensified maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea after Chinese vessels were spotted lingering in areas within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

The Department of Foreign Affairs have repeatedly filed diplomatic protests over Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte’s second Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine dose won’t be returned to China – Roque

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will still get his second dose of COVID-9 vaccine developed by Chinese drug-maker Sinopharm despite his request for China to take back the donated doses, Malacañang said Thursday.

“Siyempre po, di ibabalik yung second dose ng presidente, para matapos niya yung second dose niya,” Presidential Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

In a pre-taped Cabinet briefing on Wednesday night, Duterte defended his decision to be inoculated with a COVID-19 vaccine that has yet to undergo further evaluation and secure an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Duterte also stressed that his vaccination was legal as the Sinopharm vaccine dose he used was covered by the compassionate special permit (CSP) issued by the FDA.

He apologized for using a vaccine that has not been vetted by Philippine authorities then said that he had asked China to withdraw the donated Sinopharm doses.

“Ako mismo ang nagpaturok. It is the decision of my doctor. Anyway, it’s my life,” he said.

“Just before this meeting started, I had a talk with the ambassador. Sabi ko sa kanya, ang mga experts nagsabi, ‘Wala pa ito, hindi dumaan sa examination sa atin.’ Ang ibinigay ay compassionate use […] Ibig sabihin magamit mo compassionate,” he added.

Roque earlier said that the vaccine dose used on Duterte was covered by the PSG’s compassionate use permit for 10,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses.

The FDA earlier said that Sinopharm’s application for EUA remains pending as firms that have filed for its emergency use in the Philippines have yet to submit requirements.

“Ang problema po kasi sa Sinopharm, it is a state-owned corporation, hindi gaya ng Sinovac na isang private corporation kaya natatagalan ang proseso. Kasi kailangang magtalaga ng representante ang Sinopharm kung sino talaga ang maghahain ng mga papeles dito sa Pilipinas o sa FDA. Wala naman po itong prejudice to Sinopharm appointing an agent and complying with all the requirements of the FDA,” Roque said.

“Panatag naman po ang loob natin na maaaprubahan din ang EUA ng Sinopharm dahil Sinopharm is in use po in 25  25 countries worldwide at nakakuha na rin siya ng EUA in 25 other countries,” he added.

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