Philippines In Line for US-Made COVID Vaccines: Envoy

On the wish list from Pfizer, Moderna, J&J.
Photo/s: Ted S. Warren/Associated Press, File

The Philippine Embassy in Washington is coordinating with drug-makers in the US to avail of COVID-19 vaccines once they become available, Manila's envoy to the US said Tuesday. Back home, confirmed infections breached the 70,000-mark, highlighting the twin effects of more testing and the easing of quarantines.

Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said he had gotten in touch with Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. "Naglilinya na tayo. Once it's available for export, nandiyan na tayo (We are in line, once it's available for export, we're there)," he told the government's daily Laging Handa briefing.

Producing a vaccine is a global effort and countries are expected to "mass produce" the drugs once they pass clinical trials and are cleared for use, Romualdez said. In the US, Filipinos are extra careful against COVID-19 with the onset of flu season, he said.

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The Philippines doesn't produce any kind of vaccine and imports all its requirements. Veteran immunologist Nina Gloriani, the head of the country's COVID-19 vaccine search body, earlier told reportr that at least five from China and Taiwan were cleared for local human trials. The trials will be on Phase 3, the last step before a vaccine is cleared for commercial use.

There is a parallel effort to be part of the World Health Organization's solidarity trials, which will also be on Phase 3. It is expected to move faster since more countries will be testing the same vaccine, Gloriani said.

Earlier on Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte said those who refuse to wear face masks outside their homes could face arrest. The Department of Health also said it was targeting to test 10 million people or around a tenth of the population.

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