Philippines pins hopes for early vaccine access on China, Russia

Philippines pins hopes for early vaccine access on China, Russia
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(Dec 2): The Philippines expects to start administering coronavirus vaccines as early as the first quarter of next year, pinning its hopes on China and Russia as its own procurement policies hamper efforts for early access.

The best-case scenario is to start inoculations next quarter using shots from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Russia’s Sputnik V, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said at a virtual briefing. Sinovac has pledged to ship vaccines to the Philippines at least 60 days after a deal is signed, he said.

The Philippines, which has the second-worst outbreak in Southeast Asia, is behind neighbors like Indonesia and Thailand on vaccine procurement. Policies like a ban on advance orders and a law requiring Phase IV trials before procurement are constraining efforts to secure shots, Galvez said, adding President Rodrigo Duterte may soon issue orders to remove the roadblocks.

“The relationship of the president with the leaders of Russia and China can be maximized,” businessman and Duterte adviser Joey Concepcion said at the same briefing.

Some 2.6 million doses from AstraZeneca Plc. ordered by private companies are expected to arrive in the Philippines as early as May, while it’s in talks with several others. Daily infections have decreased for a third month in November, bringing total cases to nearly 433,000 as of Tuesday.

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