By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Despite doubts over the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines manufactured by several international pharmaceutical firms, the Department of Health has announced that two types Are expected to arrive in the country as early as February.
“We have a portfolio of different vaccines and as early as February we might be receiving the deliveries of these vaccines,” health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a statement.
She likewise clarified that there are two types of vaccines that may be available by February but without divulging more information about them.
“Let us wait for information from our vaccine czar. I hope you understand he is the one authorized to provide this kind of information,” she stated, referring to secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., who was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as chief implementer of the government’s national action plan on the (coronavirus) pandemic.
Prior to the health department’s announcement of vaccine supplies arriving in the country, the agency urged Filipinos to get the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is available, adding that the vaccines are safe.
“Let me just assure you that the government will ensure that the vaccines that will come in the country will be safe and efficacious,” Vergeire disclosed in an online briefing.
A recent survey by pollster Pulse Asia showed only about a third or 32 percent of the 2,400 Filipinos aged 18 and above surveyed are willing to get inoculated.
“Almost half of the Filipino adults (47 percent) are not inclined to get the Covid-19 vaccine while the rest (21 per cent) are ambivalent on the matter of being vaccinated or not,” the survey revealed.
It cited safety as the leading reason why almost half of the Filipino adults are not willing to get vaccinated. Other reasons cited include the cost of the vaccine and whether or not vaccination is required to combat Covid-19.
But Vergeire said the vaccines will pass through the regulatory process of the Philippines and other countries so that it has a high rate of efficacy and safety.
“We have strengthened our regulatory process wherein we have added additional layers for safeguards,” she said, stressing that the government has created expert panels that will ensure the safety and efficacy of the vaccines for Filipinos.
“We are encouraging the public to listen to the government. We will be very transparent in our processes,” she reiterated.
Filipinos, however, have an uphill struggle in agreeing to have their children vaccinated because of the lingering fear of a dengue immunization program in 2017 which linked it to child deaths. Sanofi Pasteur has insisted on the safety of the vaccine Dengvaxia but in spite this, its use has been halted by local authorities pending the completion of an investigation to ensure it is safe for the public.
Government officials are now negotiating with at least seven vaccine makers, including Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, U.S. vaccine makers Novavax, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, and Russian medical research institute Gamaleya.
Galvez said the Philippines hopes to buy at least 148 million doses from these manufacturers.
Through a private sector, the Philippines has signed a deal with British-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca for 2.6 million doses of vaccines, of which half will be donated to the government.
The Philippines aims to vaccinate between 50 million to 70 million Filipinos this year, starting with health care workers, the elderly, and the poor. (AI/MTVN)