The Philippines is set to sign a supply agreement for AstraZeneca's potential COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, the first such deal in a country aiming to further reopen its economy that has been ravaged by the pandemic.
Carlito Galvez, a top coronavirus task force official, told a media briefing the deal would be for two million doses. However, Joey Concepcion, a government business adviser, told Reuters the private sector was aiming to procure more than that.
The deal will augment government efforts to lock in supplies to inoculate around two-thirds of its 108 million population, and is another boost for AstraZeneca, which has already signed supply deals for more than three billion doses of its experimental vaccine developed with the University of Oxford.
The private firms will pay for the vaccine and donate half of the supply to the government, with the other half to be used to cover employees in the private sector, Concepcion said, without identifying the private companies.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Galvez, the former general in charge of strategy to fight the coronavirus, said the government had separate negotiations with AstraZeneca, which said on Monday its COVID-19 shot could be up to 90% effective and cheaper to make than some rivals. The vaccine still has to be approved by regulators.
The government is also in talks with China's Sinovac over a 20-50 million vaccine supply deal, as well as U.S. drugmaker Pfizer, Galvez said earlier.
The Philippines, which has the second largest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, has gradually lifted coronavirus curbs since May after imposing one of the strictest lockdowns globally.