International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) is part of a private sector initiative leading the Philippines’ efforts to support the government’s bid to secure an initial 2.6 million doses of vaccines against the novel coronavirus.

Enrique K. Razon Jr., ICTSI Chairman and President, joined the country’s top business leaders Friday, 27 November, in signing a tri-party agreement with the Philippine government and the British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca Plc. for the purchase of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate through an advance market commitment.

These vaccines, seen as a first step towards further reopening the economy safely, are expected to arrive by the second quarter of 2021 and will benefit over one million Filipinos.

Mr. Razon said that while the initial purchase based on the agreement is limited, he is hopeful that “along the line, we’ll get enough vaccines to vaccinate the entire population and those who require it.”

ICTSI will be donating half of its share to the Philippine Department of Health, where the marginalized population and healthcare workers are to be prioritized. The rest will be for employees of ICTSI and the Razon Group, including port and logistics frontliners who were critical in ensuring the efficient and uninterrupted flow of critical goods needed to fight the pandemic.

“One of the targets that we will have, of course, will be our own employees. But in the case of ICTSI, we strongly believe that some of the key essential service members that really made the biggest impact especially at the beginning of the pandemic were [the employees of] Philippine Ports Authority, Bureau of Customs, and other essential frontline port and logistics workers,” said Christian R. Gonzalez, ICTSI Executive Vice President.

At USD10 per dose, the vaccine candidate of AstraZeneca, developed in partnership with the University of Oxford, is currently the cheapest potential vaccine against COVID-19 with an overall effectiveness of 70.4 percent. Initial results of the vaccine showed that the success rate rose to 90 percent in a group of trial participants who received a half dose followed by a full dose at least a month apart. The efficacy was 62 percent if the full dose was given twice.

The vaccine candidate is likewise the easiest to administer, having huge logistical advantages for its stability and ability to be stored in ordinary refrigerator temperatures of between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius for six months.

The government hopes to vaccinate 60 to 70 percent of all Filipinos for the new coronavirus–enough to trigger herd immunity within three to five years.