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Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine held up by indemnification deal as drugmaker seeks legal cover

By Bim Santos Published Feb 17, 2021 5:09 pm Updated Feb 17, 2021 5:13 pm

The first batch of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca under the COVAX facility of the World Health Organization doesn't have any definite date of arrival until now after the drugmakers have yet to go over an agreement that will provide them legal cover if in case their product results in any ill-effects.

In a briefing today, Feb. 17, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said the country just signed indemnification agreements under the COVAX facility for US firm Pfizer-BioNTech and British company AstraZeneca.

“Maganda po yung pag-uusap namin kahapon, nakikita po natin na 'yung ating pag-uusap ay meron pong patutunguhan,” said Galvez. “Ang nakikita lang natin yung delay because they’re still contemplating kung ano po ang magiging final mutual agreement sa indemnity agreement.”

Galvez bared that the deal was delayed as the companies became particularly concerned about possible liabilities after Sanofi Pasteur was sued over Dengvaxia. Because of this, the government was compelled to provide the indemnity deal as a legal cover for any hiccups down the line.

Galvez said that the agreements give the drug manufacturers guarantee that the Philippines will absorb any potential liabilities.

The indemnification deal delayed the delivery of 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which was expected last Feb. 15.

Amid the hold-up over the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, Galvez said they are still in active talks with other countries, though no deal has been finalized with any until now.

This was a slide from the televised presentation of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez to President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday, Feb. 16

Last Feb. 8, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque stated the vaccination drive will start on Feb. 15.

"Handang handa po ang ating gobyerno para magsimula ang ating vaccination drive nitong ika-15 ng Pebrero," Roque said.

It turns out that the Feb. 15 timeline, however, was not set in stone as Roque subsequently said that they are still awaiting word from COVAX facility, which is a WHO-led global initiative aimed to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

"The COVAX communication says it will be mid-February. I think this week, COVAX will communicate to tell us exactly when," said Roque.

Last January, Galvez also said that they are already expecting 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines under COVAX by mid-February. Galvez said that the country stood to receive 9.4 million doses from COVAX from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca within the first and second quarter.

The initial batch from Pfizer was supposed to have been the first wave of vaccines that the country will receive.

On Feb. 12 in an interview over ANC, Galvez acknowledged the delay as people were already expecting the vaccines to arrive by Monday, Feb. 15. Galvez said there will be "a sliding of schedule" as they are still going over the indemnity agreement with the drugmakers.