Philippines signs deal for 2.6m doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Philippines signs deal for 2.6m doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
A health worker performs a swab test for detection of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a school turned evacuation center for residents affected by Typhoon Vamco, in Rodriguez, Rizal, Philippines, November 27, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 27 November 2020

Philippines signs deal for 2.6m doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Philippines signs deal for 2.6m doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
  • First vaccine supply is expected to arrive in the Philippines by second quarter of 2021 Philippines plans to immunize some two-thirds of its 110-million population

MANILA: The Philippines on Friday signed a supply agreement for 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine to inoculate some 1.5 million Filipinos.

The purchase deal for the experimental vaccine developed by the British pharmaceutical giant with the University of Oxford will support the Philippine government’s plans to immunize against COVID-19 some two-thirds of the country’s population of 110 million.

A tripartite agreement was signed by Carlito Galvez, chief implementer of the government’s National Task Force Against COVID-19; Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, representing the private sector; and Lotis Ramin, president of AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals Philippines Inc.

The vaccine supply will be fully paid for by private firms, but half of it will be donated to the government to help in the COVID-19 response. It is expected to arrive by the second quarter of 2021.

“We were all called upon to help find solutions to this unprecedented public health crisis. This is because we know that our lives and the lives of our loved ones are at stake. If the country is to survive, we must rely [upon] and take care of each other,” Galvez said during a virtual deal-signing ceremony.

“The agreement we are forging today is one of a kind and perhaps one of the first being done across the globe — a partnership wherein the private sector will purchase the vaccines and donate it to the government,” he said.

He added that the guaranteed 2.6 million vaccine doses from AstraZeneca will be a game changer in the Philippines’ “quest to recover and heal together” and will give Filipinos confidence that there is now a “chance to beat the virus and win back the lives that we lost.”

The government, Galvez said, is in talks with AstraZeneca for a possible purchase of another 1 million doses of vaccine and is negotiating deals with other vaccine producers for its three to five-year strategy to annually immunize between 25 and 30 million people.

When asked why the AstraZeneca vaccine was chosen, Concepcion said that being a non-profit endeavor it is a very affordable vaccine, and its producer has a good reputation.

Under the tripartite agreement signed on Friday, he added, the private sector will donate the vaccine to the government especially for the “frontliners in the field, the medical people, the police, the military and the rest that are in the most vulnerable sector…and the poorest of the poor.”


China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners
Updated 19 January 2021

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners

China rescuers drill new ‘lifelines’ to trapped gold miners
  • Twenty-two workers have been stuck 540 meters underground near Yantai in east China’s Shandong province

BEIJING: Chinese rescuers drilled several fresh holes Tuesday to reach at least 12 gold miners trapped underground for nine days, as dwindling food supplies and rising waters threatened their survival.
Twenty-two workers have been stuck 540 meters (1,750 feet) underground at the Hushan mine near Yantai in east China’s Shandong province after an explosion damaged the entrance.
After days without any signs of life, some of the trapped miners managed to send up a note attached to a metal wire which rescuers had dropped into the mine on Sunday.
Pleading for help, the handwritten message said a dozen of them were alive but surrounded by water and in need of urgent medical supplies.
Several of the miners were injured, the note said.
A subsequent phone call with the miners revealed 11 were in one location 540 meters below the surface with another – apparently alone – trapped a further 100 meters down.
The whereabouts and condition of the other 10 miners is still unknown.
Rescuers have already dug three channels and sent food, medicine, paper and pencils down thin shafts – lifelines to the miners cut into the earth.
But progress was slow, according to Chen Fei, a top city official.
“The surrounding rock near the ore body is mostly granite... that is very hard, resulting in slow progress of rescue,” Chen told reporters on Monday evening.
“There is a lot of water in the shaft that may flow into the manway and pose a danger to the trapped workers.”
Chen said the current food supply was only enough for two days.
Rescuers drilled three more channels on Tuesday, according to a rescue map published on the Yantai government’s official twitter-like Weibo account.
A telephone connection has also been set up.
Footage from state broadcaster CCTV showed dozens of rescuers clearing the main return shaft, while cranes and a massive bore-hole drill was used to dig new rescue channels to reach the trapped miners.
Rescue teams lost precious time since it took more than a day for the accident to be reported, China Youth daily reported citing provincial authorities.
Both the local Communist Party secretary and mayor have been sacked over the 30-hour delay and an official investigation is under way to determine the cause of the explosion.
Mining accidents are common in China, where the industry has a poor safety record and regulations are often weakly enforced.
In December, 23 workers died after being stuck underground in the southwestern city of Chongqing, just months after 16 others died from carbon monoxide poisoning after being trapped underground at another coal mine in the city.