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Public health expert sees vaccination vs COVID-19 to start July 2021 in PH

Special on Saturday host Cesar Chavez with guest Dr. Tony Leachon, public health expert. (FILE PHOTO)

MANILA — With two pharmaceutical companies on the final stage of releasing to the American public the vaccine developed against COVID-19, a public health expert forecasted on Saturday (November 21) the inoculation in the Philippines may start in July next year and to last until 2022.

Dr. Tony Leachon , public health expert and former member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), in an interview in DZRH Special On Saturday (SOS) program, said the Philippines can obtain the vaccines in the second quarter of 2021 and can even be available before President Duterte delivers the State of the Nation Address (SONA) next year.

Leachon walked through the process of releasing the vaccine starting in the middle of December this year, when the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the emergency use authorization (EUA) of the vaccine the Pfizer developed with 95 percent efficacy, until it reaches the Philippines and goes through the local process for another six months beginning January 2021.

He said President Duterte must waive some of the policies required before a medical product is allowed public use and the provisions in the procurement law in order to obtain immediately the vaccine from foreign pharmaceutical companies.

Leachon said the policies that must be waived by the President through the issuance of an executive order include the six-month clinical trial to hasten the issuance of product registration and marketing authorization and the prohibition of advance payment under the procurement law.

He said the government must order from different companies in varying volumes of the vaccine against COVID-19 in the face of global competition to get the required volume of doses to inoculate at least 70 percent of the Filipinos to achieve herd immunity.

Leachon explains that the herd immunity is achieved only if at least 70 percent of the population are inoculated in which the effect to the remaining 30 percent is that they will not be infected by the fatal strain of the virus.

He said the government’s budget of P18 billion for the procurement of the vaccine and another $300 million planned to be loaned including the participation of the private sector will increase the number of Filipinos inoculated from the initial target of 25 million individuals inoculated.

Leachon took note of a survey that says 66 percent of the Filipinos are willing to be inoculated, that he said, requires public education in order to convince more individuals to submit for vaccination to reach herd immunity status.

He warned the public not to drop the safeguards against COVID-19 like the wearing of face mask and face shield, observing physical distancing and constant handwashing and sanitizing until after two years of mass inoculation when at least 70 percent of the Filipinos have been inoculated.

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