MANILA (REUTERS, XINHUA) - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte issued an executive order on Wednesday (Dec 2) granting the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the power to clear Covid-19 drugs and vaccine for emergency use.
The Philippines wants to start immunising 25 million people next year against the coronavirus, hoping to restore some normalcy after nearly nine months of at times harsh restrictions, and prevent the economy from sinking deeper into recession.
The FDA can now grant emergency use authorisation if there is reason to believe the drug or vaccine may be effective in preventing, diagnosing or treating Covid-19 and if their potential benefits outweigh possible risks.
Emergency use authorisations shall also be issued if there is "no adequate, approved and available alternative to the drug or vaccine".
The national procurer or the public health programme implementer can apply for the authorisations, said the order.
With the newly signed order, a vaccine can be approved for use within a month instead of undergoing the usual six-month review period.
The Philippines, which has the second-most number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in South-east Asia, is racing to lock in vaccine supplies as it targets to immunise a third of its 108 million population.
The Department of Health on Wednesday reported 1,438 new confirmed cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number in the country to 434,357. The death toll climbed to 8,436 after 18 more patients died from the viral disease.
The National Task Force Against Covid-19 Chief Carlito Galvez told a forum on Wednesday that the Philippines may receive Covid-19 vaccine doses from manufacturers as early as the first quarter of 2021.
The Philippines has been in talks with at least four vaccine makers about supply deals and has so far secured more than two million Covid-19 shots from AstraZeneca.
The British drugmaker's vaccine still has to be approved by regulators.