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Philippines in talks with China for its first COVID-19 vaccine shot in March 2021

The Philippines is in talks with China for the first vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) that is expected to be administered in the country in March 2021.

Secretary Carlito Galvez, the chairman of the national task force for COVID-19 response, made the remark after President Rodrigo Duterte asked in a briefing when the first vaccine will be given to Filipinos.

“Eighty percent po ang nakuha ng mga malalaking bansa. Ngayon po nakita namin pinaka-earliest [vaccination] is mga March, nine-negotiate po namin sa ambassador ng China,” he said.

The bulk of the vaccines would likely arrive in May, June, and July 2021 if negotiations with manufacturers AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Sinovac prove fruitful, Galvez added.

“Sa first quarter, ito po ang tinatawag nating ‘mini rollout.’ Tama lang sa first quarter po, makita natin ‘yung rollout ng ibang bansa para matuto tayo sa kanilang experience,” he said.

Food and Drug Administration chief Eric Domingo earlier said there was a chance that a COVID-19 vaccine would be rolled out in March next year following positive developments abroad.

The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Singapore have authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use after it showed 95 percent efficacy.

Galvez said this would help speed up the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the Philippines as well.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier clarified that the Philippines’ talks with Pfizer were still underway after he was accused of “dropping the ball” during negotiations that allegedly led to a delay in the delivery of 10 million doses.

Meanwhile, Galvez said vaccine experts were studying the performance of China’s Sinovac vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik V.

Sinovac was earlier accused of engaging in bribery to hasten the approval of its vaccines.

The Philippines has tallied nearly 453,000 COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday afternoon. -- NB/BAP, GMA News