Philippines signs biggest Covid-19 vaccine order with Pfizer

The deal gives a boost to the Philippines, which is targeting to achieve herd immunity this year. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MANILA (BLOOMBERG) - The Philippines ordered 40 million coronavirus vaccine doses from Pfizer, the South-east Asian nation's biggest supply agreement as it fights one of the region's worst outbreaks.

The term sheet for the order has been signed, Mr Carlito Galvez, who leads the nation's vaccination programme, said in a mobile-phone message on Monday evening (May 17).

The deal gives a boost to the Philippines, which is targeting to achieve herd immunity this year to help an economy that remained in recession last quarter.

But while the country expects more than 200 million vaccine doses to arrive this year, recruiting as many as 50,000 health workers to administer shots in key cities poses a challenge, Mr Galvez said in a briefing with President Rodrigo Duterte. Most doctors and nurses are still treating Covid-19 patients in hospitals, Mr Galvez said, following a surge in infections that started mid-March.

The government plans to hire midwives, pharmacists, paramedics and medical students to administer the vaccines, Mr Galvez said. Inoculating workers and the poor will start this month, he said.

The Philippines recorded 5,979 new virus cases on Monday, bringing the total to 1.15 million, the second highest in South-east Asia next to Indonesia with 1.74 million. More than 2.5 million vaccine doses have been administered out of a population of more than 109 million, using vaccines mostly from Sinovac Biotech and AstraZeneca.

Mr Duterte, on Monday night, warned he may impose another "strict lockdown" should the public disregard health protocols as the country has detected new Covid-19 variants.

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