Asian Development Bank Allocates $25M for Philippine COVID-19 Vaccine Purchases

Nonoy Espina and Jojo Riñoza
Manila
2021-02-01
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Asian Development Bank Allocates $25M for Philippine COVID-19 Vaccine Purchases People wearing face masks and shields to protect against COVID-19 line up at a bus station in Manila, Feb. 1, 2021.
[Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]

The Asian Development Bank said on Monday that it had allocated U.S. $25 million to help the Philippines purchase COVID-19 vaccines this year.

The funds will come from a $125 million loan package the ADB approved in August 2020 to help the Philippines improve its capacity to combat the pandemic, which has infected more than 500,000 people, the Manila-based bank said in a statement.

“The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has allocated $25 million to help the Philippine government purchase vaccines for the coronavirus disease in 2021,” ADB said.

“The financing will come from the $125 million Health System Enhancement to Address and Limit COVID-19 project, which ADB approved on Aug. 24, 2020. It will allow the Philippine government to pay vaccine manufacturers in advance to secure the delivery of vaccines to its citizens.”

The Philippines trails only Indonesia in Southeast Asia for cases of COVID-19. The country recorded 1,658 new coronavirus infections on Monday, taking the cumulative caseload to 527,272, the health department said. With 58 deaths, the total virus-related death toll rose to 10,807, the department said.

As of Jan. 22, the Philippines had reported a total of 17 cases of the highly contagious U.K.-variant of the coronavirus.

Globally, more than 103 million COVID-19 cases and more than 2.2 million deaths have been recorded as of Monday, according to disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

‘Next critical step’

The Philippines had “significantly improved its capacity in testing, tracing, isolating, and treating COVID-19 cases in the last 10 months,” ADB president Masatsugu Asakawa said in a statement.

“Vaccination is the next critical step to protect lives and promote livelihood opportunities,” Asakawa said.

“We stand ready to support the government in these unprecedented times and help the economy navigate back to its pre-pandemic growth path.”

The government is looking to immunize up to 70 million of its about 110 million people and is negotiating with several vaccine developers.

The ADB said the funding for vaccines would follow the requirements under its $9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility (APVAX) launched in December, and will include direct payments to vaccine manufacturers.

“To supplement the $25 million financing, ADB is preparing a follow-on project under APVAX for consideration by ADB’s Board of Directors to support the government’s efforts to procure vaccines,” ADB said.

Separately, President Rodrigo Duterte accused the European Union on Monday of slowing distribution of Anglo-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines, Reuters news agency reported.

He said countries that are not as rich as those in the EU do not have the power to purchase as many vaccines as they need.

“AstraZeneca was held hostage by the European Union,” Duterte said about the drug maker which last week said it would fall short of delivering vaccines promised to the EU.

The European bloc is looking to monitor the export of vaccines and could block them if its own supply falls short, Reuters said.

“This is a fight among the highest bidders, who can pay first,” Duterte said in a televised address.

Vaccines by mid-February

Retired Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., head of the government’s anti-COVID-19 task force, said on Sunday that at least 5.6 million vaccine doses produced by U.S. drug maker Pfizer with its German partner BioNTech, and from AstraZeneca were expected to arrive in the first quarter of the year to “to jumpstart the country’s national vaccination program.”

“These are expected to be delivered in mid-February and will cover the first quarter supply commitment,” Galvez said in a statement.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administration has approved emergency-use authorization of vaccines from these two drug makers.

Moving forward, 9.4 million doses of vaccines are expected from these two companies in the first and second quarter, Galvez said.

“Delivery confirmation of the supplies for the succeeding quarters will be announced later. … I would like to emphasize that according to COVAX the number of doses and the projected arrival of the vaccines are all indicative since it all depends on the global supply,” he said, referring to the World Health Organization-backed vaccine sharing platform.

Last month, China’s foreign minister promised to donate half a million vaccine doses to the Philippines, but it wasn’t clear which vaccine Beijing would donate.

In addition, the government had secured a deal to buy 25 million doses of vaccines from Sinovac and that these would be arriving in batches, beginning this month, Harry Roque, the spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte, had said.

Galvez did not say when the first Sinovac batch would arrive.

He said that the government’s target to inoculate about 70 million people by year-end would “realize our nation’s goal of achieving herd immunity this year.”

“We would therefore like to urge all Filipinos to set their fears aside and have themselves inoculated once these vaccines are available,” he said.

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