Philippines talking to Pfizer, Russia on COVID-19 vaccine supply

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippine health ministry said on Friday it was due to meet representatives of U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc and the Russian embassy, as the Southeast Asian country looks to secure a supply of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has pledged that the country, which has reported the region's highest number of coronavirus cases, would be "back to normal" by December, pinning his hopes on access to affordable vaccines from countries like China and Russia.

Officials of the president's office and ministries of health and foreign affairs would meet with Pfizer on Friday afternoon, then Russian officials later in the day, health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.

"This will not affect our negotiation with other countries ... It is complementary," Vergeire told a regular news conference.

The Philippines is among a number of developing countries with large populations keen to secure a supply a COVID-19 vaccine, with expectations of high demand globally.

U.S. public health officials and Pfizer said a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for distribution in the United States as soon as next month. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had asked states to prepare to distribute a vaccine to high-risk groups as soon as late October.

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Securing vaccines from multiple suppliers would allow the Philippines to inoculate a larger segment of the population, Vergeire said.

It plans to buy 40 million doses worth $400 million for 20 million people, about a fifth of its 107 million population.

The president's spokesman last month said the Philippines would launch clinical trials for the Russian coronavirus vaccine in October, with Duterte expected to be inoculated as early as May next year.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty)

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