Locsin seeks Pompeo help to secure vaccines

MANILA, Philippines — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to help the Philippines secure some of the vaccines that were part of the supposed missed deal with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

“Great phone conversation with Mike Pompeo last night. Lotsa laughs at others,” Locsin tweeted yesterday.

“But on the most serious note I asked him to help Babe and I get back even a fraction of the 10 million doses of Pfizer after someone dropped the ball. He’ll give it his best try,” he added.

Babe is Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, with whom Locsin earlier said he worked to secure the delivery of 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccines as early as next month.

But last week, the secretary said “someone dropped the ball,” leading to the cancellation of the delivery.

Later reports alleged that it was Health Secretary Francisco Duque III who supposedly dropped the ball after he failed to sign early enough a confidential disclosure agreement sought by Pfizer supposedly as a prerequisite for a supply deal.

In his latest tweet, Locsin said Romualdez is also negotiating with Moderna, whose COVID-19 vaccine recently received endorsement from the US Food and Drug Administration.

“My sweet suggestion is for them to move on; catch up; make up for mistakes; and do your job. No one’s asking you to admit fault because no gives a flying f**k about you. Don’t mess with the best,” Locsin added in a separate tweet, still on the missed deal with Pfizer.

The discussion regarding the Pfizer vaccine was not in the official readout of the US State Department regarding the phone call between Locsin and Pompeo.

“Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Locsin discussed opportunities to further reinforce the US-Philippine alliance and the binding nature of the 2016 arbitral tribunal award on all parties in the South China Sea,” read a statement from US State Department principal deputy spokesman Cale Brown.

“The two secretaries also discussed the economic, security, democratic and people-to-people ties that make up the strong bond between our two countries,” he added.

On Twitter, Pompeo said it was always good to speak with Locsin “about our shared interests in the South China Sea.”

“The US-Philippine Alliance is vital to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.

Deal by end-Dec?

As Locsin moved to revive a stalled supply deal with Pfizer, National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government is trying to finalize a deal with various firms by the end of the month or early January.

Galvez said a deal with Pfizer is possible this month or by the first week of January.

“We are still waiting for the validation and confirmation from the Pfizer headquarters. Once there is an allocation then the signing will follow. Hopefully the earliest is within this month or just in case the allocation is delayed, it will be first week of January. We are glad that Pfizer did not abandon us,” an optimistic Galvez said.

Galvez emphasized the government did not miss an opportunity to secure doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Negotiations on many occasions will reach stalemate and gridlock when legal challenges, public interest and safety are at stake,” he explained.

Galvez reiterated that the Philippines is now in the advanced stages of negotiations with various vaccine manufacturers.

“While our vaccine expert panel and the Food and Drug Administration continuously assess the safety and efficacy of each of the candidate vaccines, we are also trying to get the best price possible to ensure cost-efficiency and equitable access for the poor,” Galvez said.

“Payments will only be done once all the regulatory requirements for Emergency Use Authorization from FDA and the originating country are secured,” Galvez added.

He expressed optimism that initial deliveries would be made by March.

“I will say it again that all vaccines will pass FDA approval to ensure safety and efficacy,” Galvez said.

He also stressed that the delivery of vaccines regardless of country of origin and manufacturer would be made in tranches or on a staggered basis, which is the same mode of delivery even for developed countries such as the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

He also clarified that the prices released to the media were commercial prices.

“These are not the negotiated prices given to us by the companies. The negotiated price of a dose of vaccine is mostly at cost since most of the companies believe that during this pandemic our moral obligation and global interest is to save lives and humanity,” Galvez said.

He also explained that negotiations on prices are based on the allocated P73 billion to P75 billion for the inoculation of 60 to 80 million Filipinos, or enough to allow the country to achieve the standards for herd immunity set by the World Health Organization.

“Likewise, we hope to seal deals similar to the tripartite agreement we signed with Astrazeneca, wherein 2.6 million doses of the vaccine were sold to the private sector at no profit, which were in turn donated to the government at no cost,” Galvez said.

“No deal will be finalized without the corresponding regulatory approval from their country of origin and Emergency Use Authorization from our FDA,” Galvez emphasized. – Jose Rodel Clapano, Sheila Crisostomo

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