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Health

Philippines seeking 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines next year

FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines plans to procure an initial 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to ensure at least a quarter of its population gets inoculated next year, a top coronavirus task force official said on Monday.

Carlito Galvez, the former general in charge of implementing the country’s strategy to fight the coronavirus, said several embassies had been contacted about potential government-to-government arrangement for purchasing the vaccines.

He did not identify those countries. However, President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly said he preferred that his country source its COVID-19 vaccines from either China or Russia.

Authorities were also looking at bilateral and multilateral vaccine deals, including tapping the World Health Organization’s global vaccine project, known as COVAX, to bolster the country’s prospective arsenal against the pandemic, Galvez told a media briefing.

The government was evaluating 17 vaccines “for safety, efficacy, cost effectiveness”, he said.

Duterte has said he has the budget to purchase vaccines but wants more in order to inoculate the entire Philippine population.

The Philippines, with its more than 108 million people and some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 infections in Asia, is considered as both a suitable location for clinical trials and a large market for global vaccine manufacturers.

Galvez said vaccines could start arriving between May and July, with the bulk of supply likely to come by the end of 2021 or early 2022.

He said the Philippines was also negotiating access to at least 3-5 million doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca AZN.L , Britain's second-largest drugmaker, as it had pledged to supply vaccines at no profit.

Reporting by Karen Lema; Editing by Martin Petty

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