PH completes Covax requirements

By: Maricar Cinco - Reporter / @maricarcincoINQ - Inquirer.net | February 18,2021 - 12:07 PM

The Philippines has signed and submitted to the World Health Organization (WHO)-led Covax facility the required indemnity agreement that will pave the way for the delivery of vaccines against the novel coronavirus.

Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., who heads the government’s inoculation program, said the agreement frees drugmakers from liability in case the vaccines, developed only months after the outbreak of the global pandemic, produces adverse side effects in recipients.

“We have signed and submitted the requirements, including the indemnification agreements for Pfizer and AstraZeneca. We have already signed that,” Galvez said in a televised government briefing.

Galvez said he had spoken with the drug firms and are awaiting feedback on the delivery schedules.

No-fault agreement

“Our dialogue yesterday was good,” he said. “We can say that our talks are going somewhere. We only saw delays because they were contemplating the final indemnity agreement.”

The indemnity, or no-fault, agreement, is also one of the requirements before a country can avail of the Covax facility, comanaged by the WHO with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization.

“We gave them a guarantee that in the immunization we’re going to conduct, the Philippines is prepared to handle the adverse effects,” said Galvez, who had also asked President Duterte to certify as urgent bills seeking to establish an indemnity fund for vaccine recipients who get adverse side effects.

But Galvez’s deputy, presidential adviser for flagship programs and projects Vivencio Dizon, said the government might not even have to wait for Congress to pass the laws because “our understanding is that the agreement should suffice.”

All pieces in place

“But we will talk to Pfizer and Covax in the coming days to finalize everything including the schedule of delivery,” Dizon said in an online interview.

The two vaccine implementers announced the signing of the indemnity agreement as WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that the WHO has approved emergency use for the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

“We now have all the pieces in place for the rapid distribution of vaccines. But we still need to scale up production,” Tedros said in Geneva. “We continue to call for COVID-19 vaccine developers to submit their dossiers to WHO for review at the same time as they submit them to regulators in high-income countries.”

The British drugmaker AstraZeneca said the WHO’s emergency use approval of the vaccine produced in South Korea and the Serum Institute of India paves the way for the production of more than 300 million doses in the first half of 2021.

The AstraZeneca/Oxford shot has been hailed because it is cheaper and easier to distribute than others, including the one produced by Pfizer and German firm BioNTech, which was listed for emergency use by the WHO late in December.

Nearly 109 million people have been reported to be infected by the novel coronavirus globally and more than 2.5 million have died, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

—With a report from Reuters

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
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