Duterte gov’t to start negotiations with COVID vaccine maker Moderna

Image for illustrative purpose only. Photo: Bill Oxford/Unsplash
Image for illustrative purpose only. Photo: Bill Oxford/Unsplash

The Philippines is set to start negotiations with COVID-19 vaccine maker Moderna, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced in a television interview today.

“Vaccine czar el jefe Carlito Galvez Jr. is gonna start negotiations with American biotech company Moderna on or before Wednesday next week,” Locsin told CNN Philippines.

Read: 2 American companies willing to supply PH with COVID vax, says Romualdez

Jose Manuel Romualdez, the Philippine ambassador to the United States, is helping with the negotiations with Moderna, a Massachusetts-based company.

“Earlier this morning, he (Romualdez) called and said that Moderna is interested in giving an allocation to the Philippines,” Locsin added.

The country’s top diplomat added that Novavax, which is made in India, will supply the Philippines with 30 million dosages of its own COVID vaccine.

“It will be available by July 2021. The term sheet might be signed before the year ends,” Locsin said.

The announcement comes a few days after Locsin divulged in a tweet that a certain government official “dropped the ball” during the Duterte government’s negotiations with Pfizer, which would supposedly deliver 10 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine in the Philippines next month.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said that the vaccine ended up in the hands of the Singapore government because Health Secretary Francisco Duque failed to sign off on the paperwork needed to seal the Pfizer deal. However, Duque said that Pfizer never promised that it would supply the Philippines with 10 million doses of its drug and that the pharma company was having production issues. He added that he already signed the necessary documents as early as Oct. 20.

President Rodrigo Duterte thought that his health minister, whom he has publicly defended multiple timesdid not commit any major lapses in connection with the Pfizer negotiations, Spokesman Harry Roque said.

Recently, Romualdez said that Moderna and Arcturus Therapeutics, another vaccine maker, are ready to supply millions of vials of its drugs to the Philippines. Arcturus’ vaccine, which is being developed along with Singaporean scientists, is expected to become available in early 2021.

Meanwhile, Moderna has been approved for emergency use in the U.S., the second vaccine to be approved by American regulators.

The Duterte government is currently in the final stage of acquiring 25 million doses of the controversial vaccine Sinovac, which is expected to arrive in March. Meanwhile, Filipino private companies have purchased 2.6 million shots of the vaccine produced by AstraZeneca, expected to be delivered in May or June.

The Philippines has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, with 459,789 recorded as of yesterday. The figure includes 429,134 recoveries and 8,947 deaths.

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