It is the year 2021 and the scramble to get one or as many possible out of multiple manufacturers of vaccines for COVID-19 has taken the world by storm. While it is primarily the national governments that must make the biggest deals with pharmaceutical companies making the vaccines to avail them for their respective populations, it is already accepted that companies in the private sectors and local government units must throw their own money in to get as many vaccines available quickly. This is true here in the Philippines, with business giants and city/provincial governments also talking with the likes of Pfizer, Moderna, Sinovac and more for their peoples’ use.

As the Philippine News Agency would have it, the city LGU of GenSan is now coordinating with the Department of Health (DOH) and AstraZeneca in order to get some long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines as early as can be done. In a media interview last Friday, January 15, GenSan Mayor Ronnel Rivera revealed that the city government has decided to take up an offer made by British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca. At the latest, the deal has entered into advanced negotiations, and barring any unforeseen developments, the GenSan LGU will finalize a supply deal for vaccines before January’s end.

“We’re currently pushing for its (AstraZeneca) vaccine and hopefully we can make a deal soon,” Mayor Rivera told reporters last week. He adds that the LGU has earmarked around P200 million to purchase vaccines from AstraZeneca and, upon the resumption of sessions at the City Council this coming Tuesday, January 19, he and the City Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases will petition the Councilors to grant them authority to sign this dea to assure availability of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

AstraZeneca, headquartered in Cambridge, UK, was born in 1999 when pharmaceutical companies Astra AB in Sweden and the British Zeneca Group agreed to a merger. Their vaccine, AZD1222, was co-developed by them with the University of Oxford and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). As with many existing COVID vaccines, two injections are required, with AstraZeneca’s vaccine having a recorded 90% efficacy rate of protection. Thus far, 10 countries have official emergency use authorization for this vaccine, with AstraZeneca ironing out a similar authorization deal here in the Philippines.

The GenSan LGU chose AstraZeneca’s vaccine for supplying the city with due to its cheaper price and more viable cold storage requirement of only 2-8°C (not freezing). The current deal could see about 330,000 vaccines at first go, with the goal being to vaccinate around 85% of GenSan’s population of 600,000 people. Mayor Rivera projects that at best-case scenario, vaccination can begin by March 2021.

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