The Department of Science and Technology targets vaccinations for COVID-19 to start by May 2021, according to Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the point person appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to negotiate for the procurement and distribution of vaccines.
But Galvez cautioned that inoculations could be postponed to end of 2021 in case of problems in supply.
“Talagang magkakahirapan tayo sa demand and supply kaya we’re appealing to the WHO (World Health Organization) na bigyan ng equitable access,” he said.
Galvez said government wants to purchase an initial batch of 24 million vaccine doses. But Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said government must first be able to identify or establish cold storage facilities because the vaccines require cold (subzero temperatures) storage.
Only the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City has such a facility, according to Roque.
Galvez said 10 pharmaceutical companies are offering to supply a COVID vaccine to the Philippines, eight are from COVAX, a global collaboration intending to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to the vaccine.
Among the pharmaceutical companies with promising trials is Astra Zeneca from the United Kingdom, which can produce one billion doses by end of 2020, according to Galvez.
He said he will also talk with drug company representatives from China, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Japan so the Philippines will have priority once a vaccine becomes available.
Galvez said he is also talking with pharmaceutical giants Zuellig Pharma and Unilab Inc. on the availability of cold storage facilities.
Some vaccines require refrigeration as cold as negative 80 degree Celsius. He said it would take time for government to build cold-storage facilities