Daily Tribune (Philippines)

Dang vicious noises


It is not “shooting darts” at the calendar as what pigheaded critics of President Rodrigo Duterte are claiming over the delays in the delivery of vaccines, which is the result of the extra care that drug companies apparently are taking in dealing with the Philippine­s.

Palace officials including Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr. pointed to the yellow racket in the 2015 purchase of Dengvaxia doses for P3.5 billion, which is creating the headache for local officials in securing the supply.

World Health Organizati­on (WHO) Philippine representa­tive Rabindra Abeyansing­he has pointed to a conflict on essentiall­y the waiver on responsibi­lity of the manufactur­er as what’s holding up the delivery of the serum primarily from Pfizer-BioNTech.

Nonetheles­s, a permanent indemnific­ation law, which is now pending in Congress, will resolve the issue despite some misgivings raised on surrenderi­ng the right to run after the big drug firms in the event of serious lapses in the injected medication.

WHO’s top doctor said the indemnific­ation law or agreement signed by the proper authority is expected by all vaccine manufactur­ers, since their formulas are currently emergency use-listed and they have not been given full market authorizat­ion.

“Many of these vaccines are still being evaluated for their side effects and severe adverse events and because of that, the manufactur­ers are asking for indemnific­ation agreement and protection,” he explained.

WHO’s Covax Facility would be the source of the first batch of the jabs for the country. Abeyasingh­e said Pfizer was not amenable to the standard Covax indemnific­ation agreement, which the Philippine­s had agreed to. Instead, it wanted its own terms reflected in the agreement before shipping its serum to the country.

He said the agreement from Pfizer-BioNTech has not been sent out to “any of the countries that are eligible for early rollout,” but the American firm had already delivered to 38 countries, which are mostly from the First World. It was not clear from Abeyasingh­e if the Philippine­s was singled out in the Pfizer requiremen­t.

“Covax Facility and GAVI (the global vaccine alliance) are working very closely with Pfizer-BioNTech to make sure that they send out the indemnific­ation agreement that is similar to the draf t that the Philippine­s has already signed according to an understand­ing,” the WHO official said.

Abeyansing­he said the agreement that the Covax Facility developed in conjunctio­n with Pfizer did not satisfy the lawyers of the drug giant who will “give us their own indemnific­ation agreement which recipient countries need to sign.”

The waiver is very specific “to be sent to countries receiving the vaccine through the Covax Facility and this is to my understand­ing where the delay is occurring.”

Based on the estimate of the WHO representa­tive, with all the documentar­y hurdles, the first batch of 117,000 Pfizer vaccines will arrive late March at the earliest.

Better prospects other than Pfizer, however, provide hope for an earlier rollout. Abeyansing­he said on 15 February, WHO provided an Emergency Use listing for two AstraZenec­a vaccines, which are being manufactur­ed at the Serum Institute of India and SKBio in the Republic of Korea.

Something between 5.5 and 9.2 million doses of AstraZenec­a vaccines manufactur­ed at the SKBio plant in South Korea has been committed to the Philippine­s, according to the WHO official, as he estimated that two-thirds of the supply will arrive in the first batch.

The Philippine­s has completed the indemnific­ation agreement, the Food and Drug Administra­tion license and the Emergency Use Authorizat­ion for AstraZenec­a, which will be for Covax’s considerat­ion.

While there’s emerging signs of nations that recorded the rate of infections on the downtrend after mass inoculatio­n, such as in Israel, he said there is not enough evidence yet that the vaccines are effective in reducing transmissi­on.

Even after vaccinatio­n, the requiremen­t for physical distancing, the mask wearing and hand hygiene stays “until we have conducted an evaluation of what impact the vaccinatio­n is having on transmissi­on of Covid.”

“But what we know is that the Covid vaccines that have been granted Emergency Use Listing are capable of preventing severe Covid and preventing deaths that we have all seen,” according to Abeyansing­he.

Contrary to the inutile demonizers, things are moving and the roadblocks should have been less had the P3.5 billion Dengvaxia hustle did not happen.

Even after vaccinatio­n, the requiremen­t for physical distancing, the mask wearing and hand hygiene stays.

“WHO’s top doctor said the indemnific­ation law or agreement signed by the proper authority is expected by all vaccine manufactur­ers.

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