Pressure mounts on gov’t to complete vaccine deals | Inquirer News

Pressure mounts on gov’t to complete vaccine deals

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 05:00 AM February 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — More senators on Sunday expressed impatience with the sluggish pace of the government’s negotiations with drug manufacturers for coronavirus vaccines, exerting pressure on the vaccination managers to finish supply agreements following last week’s disclosure that not even one had been signed.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said the country was left with no choice but to rely on the pledge of Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the COVID-19 task force and head of the national vaccination program, that the arrival of the vaccines was only weeks away.


It was also Galvez who admitted during a Senate hearing on Thursday that while the Philippines had “secured” 108 million doses of the vaccine in talks with various pharmaceutical companies, no firm agreement had been sealed between the parties, except a nonbinding “term sheet.”

Falling behind

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who was also present at the hearing, confirmed the information, saying no vaccine deals had been signed, but the country would get 600,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccines donated by China and 117,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from COVAX.


The Sinovac vaccines would arrive on Feb. 23, while the Pfizer vaccines, which had been expected to arrive Feb. 15, would now be delayed due to some paperwork.

Galvez’s admission drew alarm among senators who worried that the Philippines would be left far behind, while its neighbors Singapore and Indonesia started inoculating their citizens last month.

“It is a cause for concern and we are at this point placing our trust [in] the assurances of Secretary Galvez that the [global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX] and the negotiations with other vaccine entities will see the first deliveries and the beginning of the rollout before the end of the month of February,” Pangilinan told the Inquirer in a Viber message.

“For the sake of our nation’s immediate economic recovery, we can only pray that he will be good with his word,” he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson criticized the inconsistent statements of the government’s vaccine planners, citing “all the mixed signals and sometimes even conflicting announcements about the availability of whichever brand of vaccines.”

“[It] might do us good to just wait for the actual rollout and hope and pray that everything goes well from storage to distribution until those needles reach the arms of our people,” he told the Inquirer also through Viber.

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, on the other hand, was more forgiving of the government’s efforts, saying it was just a matter of time before the agreements were concluded.


“My impression is many are in advanced stages of negotiation,” he said.

Second look

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier said the absence of a completed supply agreement might necessitate revisiting the entire plan. “Our vaccine procurement strategy deserves a second look,” he said.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the situation was “incredibly distressing” and “creating public confusion and anxiety.”

The private sector has done better, signing up and paying for 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that will be delivered in May.

Of the 17 million shots, around 15 million would go to local governments. Under the tripartite agreement among the private sector, AstraZeneca and the government, the remainder would be split between private companies and the national government.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri wants to accelerate the vaccination program by allowing local governments to buy their own vaccines directly from the drugmakers.

Toward that end, he has filed a bill that would exempt local governments from state regulations in buying vaccines and vaccination equipment and supplies.

The bill would also allow local governments to make a 50 percent down payment on their vaccine orders for better chances of securing supplies.

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