MANILA - The Philippines will get 2.6 million shots of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca under the country's first supply deal for a coronavirus vaccine, senior officials said on Friday. This supply, to be paid for by the private sector, will inoculate just over 1 million Filipinos as the British drugmaker's vaccine requires two doses, said Jose Concepcion, a government business adviser representing the private sector. Carlito Galvez, a top coronavirus task force official, said authorities were also discussing with AstraZeneca a possible 1 million more doses. Those agreed on Friday would cover about 1% of the Philippines' 108 million population, two-third of which the government hopes to inoculate. It is seeking 20-50 million doses from China's Sinovac and U.S. firm Pfizer among others. AstraZeneca is one of five vaccine makers that have applied to hold late-stage trials in the Philippines and the supply deal comes amid questions over the results of one such study elsewhere. Several scientists have raised doubts about the robustness of results showing it was 90% effective. "We want an end to this nightmare. We are willing to take this risk," Concepcion said, stressing the urgent need to reopen the economy further. "The private sector is desperate." The Philippines' $370 billion economy, among Asia's fastest growing before the pandemic, fell deeper into recession in the third quarter as broad curbs aimed at quelling some of the region's highest infection rates limited economic activity. The private sector contingent, which includes industry groups and firms owned by tycoons collectively worth tens of billions of dollars, will donate half of the 2.6 million doses to the government, and administer the rest to their own employees, Concepcion said. The shipment is expected in May. Nearby Thailand has also agreed a deal with AstraZeneca. REUTERS
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