Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, who has previously slammed manufacturers for asking for fees to reserve vaccines, has approved advance payments to secure millions of COVID-19 jabs, his spokesman said on Thursday. Duterte also overrode a six-month review period that usually applies to newly-approved drugs, meaning it will only take 21 days for the vaccine to be cleared for use in the Philippines, said presidential spokesman Harry Roque.
“We agreed to pay in advance because if we don’t, we might be the last among countries to get the vaccine,” Roque said. The government is looking to purchase up to 50 million doses of the vaccine by next year, according to officials. First to be immunised will be health care workers, government workers, poor people and members of the security forces. Roque said the government was looking at various ways of financing the vaccine, including partnerships with private companies, as well as bilateral and multilateral loans.
In September, the Department of Health requested at least 12.9 billion pesos (258 million dollars) for the initial purchase of the vaccines, storage facilities and other requirements. The Philippines’ COVID-19 caseload increased to 413,430 on Thursday, with 1,337 additional infections, the Department of Health said. The death toll rose to 7,998.