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Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno

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Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno

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Mass vaccination for Covid-19 expected mid-2021

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Not all 103 million Filipinos will be vaccinated against COVID-19 within a month after the vaccine becomes available, a US pharmaceutical firm executive said in a report by GMA News.

Dr. Beaver Tamesis, Managing Director of US pharmaceutical firm Merck Sharpe and Dohme in the Philippines, noted that the most optimistic timeline for the availability of a COVID-19 vaccine would be mid-2021.

Even then, the vaccine's availability for the Philippines or any other country for that matter cannot be guaranteed.

“The government has to prioritize [who gets to get the vaccine against COVID-19], especially in a big population like us. We are 100 million people; that [vaccine] is not going to happen in a month,” Tamesis said during the Foreign Correspondents of the Philippines (FOCAP) forum.

“You really have to prioritize those most vulnerable, the health workers and front liners so they can proceed on rendering service. We should still continue practicing hygienic measures, observe physical distancing,” Tamesis added.

Tamesis said that the COVAX vaccine facility—a global collaboration of manufacturers and experts which seeks to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines—estimated that the COVID-19 vaccine would cost at least $21 for two doses to be given with a 28-day interval.

General Manager Dr. Jean Antoine Zinsou of French pharmaceutical firm Sanofi in the Philippines backed Tamesis call, saying that vaccine distribution is just as crucial as vaccine availability.

“It is not just about the vaccine becoming available. You have to make sure those who need it the most are vaccinated,” Zinsou said in the same forum.

Likewise, Zinsou said that the population needed to be thoroughly informed on the effectiveness of vaccines ahead of its availability.

“There should be education for the people to prevent misinformation. It is very important to address vaccine hesitancy,” Zinsou pointed out.

“We cannot stand still before the vaccine comes. We have to prepare for the arrival of the vaccine,” Zinsou added.

Back in November 2018, Duque said that public confidence in the government’s vaccination program had dropped to 33 percent from 92 percent due to the controversy involving the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

Public confidence in vaccines was shaken after officials of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi announced in November 2017 that the vaccine posed a risk to those who were not infected by dengue before being injected with the vaccine.

Allegations had also been made that several children vaccinated with Dengvaxia had died because of it, though there has been no medical conclusion that the deaths were indeed caused by the vaccine.

Without admitting any wrongdoing, Sanofi returned P1.16 billion to the DOH for the unused doses of Dengvaxia.

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