Davao, Iligan ready to buy COVID vaccines
DAVAO CITY — As pharmaceutical firms abroad race to develop the vaccines against the novel coronavirus disease, some local government units (LGUs) in Mindanao are already setting aside funds for its procurement.
Among the early birds, the Davao City government has been reaching out to vaccine makers abroad. Iligan City, a highly urbanized independent city in Lanao del Norte province, has set aside P100 million to buy COVID-19 vaccines next year.
Davao Mayor Sara Duterte said the city government would be spending its own funds to buy the COVID-19 vaccines abroad if the city could get direct supply access from one of the credible vaccine makers and once such procurement gets the approval of the national government.
“It’s a long process but because the pandemic is also long, (it might drag on) for another two years, I’m sure we can come up with something for Davao City,” the mayor said.
She said the national government had yet to consider allowing LGUs to directly access the vaccines from their sources but doing so would benefit everyone.
“In my opinion, if they allow LGUs to move on their own to access vaccines approved by the national government, then, the LGUs may be able to help the national government move the vaccines to a large segment of the population,” Duterte said.
Duterte said she had already communicated with vaccine makers abroad long before the first vaccine, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, was rolled out in the United Kingdom.
She said an official of one of the drug companies she approached told her to write to their company to arrange for early access to the vaccines but when she did, the company wrote back that the vaccines they were making were not for profit and that they would only sell to the Department of Health (DOH). Another company she had sought out recently said that because there was no approved eligible vaccine for release yet, all current inoculations were only for emergency use.
The company, however, encouraged the city government to participate in Phase 3 clinical trials to have access to the vaccines for emergency cases.
Duterte said they were willing to participate in the clinical trials if permitted by the national government.
In Iligan City, Mayor Celso Regencia said the procurement would proceed once there was a go signal from health authorities.
Regencia said the city allocated funds for vaccine procurement in its 2021 budget as the local government did not want to depend on the national government for the COVID-19 vaccination of its residents.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. has said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may reach the country around the second half of next year. Other candidate vaccines are in the advanced stage of development and could be available also in 2021.
“We have to invest in the health of our people to ensure a solid foundation for our economic recovery,” Regencia said.
Iligan city is under general community quarantine until the end of the year. The pandemic has wrought a heavy toll on the local economy.
The local business community estimated more than 12,000 workers in the formal and informal sectors had lost their jobs, especially due to the crippling lockdowns during the summer.
In Lanao del Norte, Gov. Imelda Quibranza Dimaporo said they had not allocated funds for the COVID-19 vaccines but the province might realign funds once vaccines would be available in the country.
In Lanao del Sur, Sheila Devnani Ganda of the provincial COVID-19 task force said Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. would wait for the national government’s guidelines on vaccine procurement before the province would allocate funds for it.
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