Duterte OKs advance payments, commitments with COVID-19 vaccine developers
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed the government to enter into advance market commitments with private vaccine developers and the release of advance payments to them to ensure the supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
In a televised Palace press briefing Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte approved the proposal of Philippine vaccine czar and National Task Force against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. to ensure that the Philippines will not be left behind in the race for the procurement of the coronavirus vaccines.
“Pumayag na po tayo na magkakaroon po tayo ng advance, kasi kapag hindi po tayo pumayag baka mangulelat doon sa mga bansa na makakuha ng vaccines,” Roque said.
In September, Duterte slammed pharmaceutical companies particularly those from Western countries for asking for advance payment for their COVID-19 vaccines that are still under development.
“Noong una ayaw ni Presidente iyan, pero noong makita niya ang listahan ng mga nag-aadvance payment, e hindi naman tayo magpapahuli basta meron naman tayong pondo,” Roque explained.
“Kung kinakailanagang ibenta ibenta ang mga ari-arian ng gobyerno, gagawin niya iyan,” he added.
Galvez earlier said the “advanced marketing program” is meant to resolve the Philippines’ “limitations.” The Government Auditing Code of the Philippines said the government shall not be obliged to pay an advance payment for services and supplies not delivered yet.
The government has been pinning its hopes on a COVID-19 vaccine to end the pandemic which has already afflicted over 412,000 people nationwide.
Vaccines for Filipinos
During the meeting of the House Committee on Peoples Participation chaired by Rep. Florida “Rida” Robes of San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan, Dr. Aleli Annie Grace Sudiacal of the Department of Health’s Bureau of International Health Cooperation, said that the President has already given his approval to use the allotted budget for the purchase of COVID-19 under the proposed 2021 General Appropriations Act through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) facility.
The Committee on Peoples Participation has been conducting meetings in a bid to coordinate and facilitate efforts in the development of vaccine for COVID-19.
Sudiacal explained that Covax facility is a global sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine once they are licensed and approved. It is expected to provide vaccination for 3 to 20 percent of the population or 3.2 million to 22 million Filipinos.
She stressed that Covax facility pools together the world’s philanthropists, international non-governmental organizations and other groups to be able to talk to manufacturers to produce vaccines based on the need of a country, regardless of their economic standing.
“This way we will be assured that manufacturers will produce the amount needed to vaccinate this eligible population,” she said.
She added that the Philippines is eligible under the Covax system because it is a low middle income country which signified its intention to be part of the system. However, the country needs to pay US$1.6 to US$2 per dose to be able to be take part in it.
“As you all know we have RA 9184 or the Procurement Act which prohibits advance payment for something that is still not there. That is why we had to seek the intervention of the President and it’s very good news that the President has approved the use of the P2.5 billion allotted for the purchase of vaccines for the Philippines to have access to the Covax facility,” she told the committee.
With the President’s approval, the country may get access for around 20 percent of the population once a vaccine or several vaccines become available. She said funding will from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank.
Sudiacal said the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 has already identified 12 priority vulnerable groups that will be given vaccine based on the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE).
Frontliners, PWDs, OFWs are priority
They are the frontline health workers from the public and private sectors, indigent senior citizens, remaining senior citizens, indigent population and uniformed personnel. Other priorities are teachers and school workers from public and private institutions, government workers, essential workers in agriculture, food industry, transportation and tourism, socio-demographic groups at significantly higher risk like people deprived of liberty, People with Disability (PWDs) and Filipinos living in high density areas, Overseas Filipino Workers, other remaining workforce and students.
Aside from the Covax facility to ensure that vaccines will be made available to Filipinos, Sudiacal said the government is also venturing into other options like talking to some three vaccine manufacturers for government to government procurement, domestic production and/or foreign donation.
The funding sources from the vaccine procurement may be from multilateral banks such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, local bank-facilitated loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines as well as direct contracting.
Department of Science and Technology Assistant Secretary Leah Buendia said her department is currently studying the application of three vaccines for phase 3 of clinical trials, namely Sinovac from China, Sputnik V from Russia and Johnson and Johnson from the United States.
Buendia clarified that the Philippines has yet to evaluate the vaccine developed by Pfizer because the company has not submitted its application to the department. Robes for her part expressed elation over the latest vaccine development saying that it gives hope to the Filipino people who have long been hoping and praying for a vaccine for COVID-19.
“We would like to commend the tireless efforts of the President and the IATF to help our countrymen and find a vaccine. We are almost there I think. With these new developments, we will be able to go back to normal very soon,” Robes said.
EDV / JPV
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