PH gov’t not favoring any firm in COVID-19 vaccine procurement – Dizon

Robie de Guzman   •   January 12, 2021   •   159

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is not favoring any pharmaceutical company in the procurement of a vaccine against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Secretary Vince Dizon, the government’s testing czar and deputy chief implementer of the National Action Plan against COVID-19, said.

During a Senate hearing on the government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan on Monday, Dizon stressed that the government is pursuing the safety and efficacy of a vaccine and is negotiating with all companies that have developed a potential vaccine against the virus.

“Wala po tayong policy na pinapaboran ang isang vaccine o isang bansa. Lahat po ng vaccines na safe and effective ay ipu-pursue ng national government, vaccine czar, at vaccine cluster,” he said.

Dizon made the remark after Senator Richard Gordon said that the Philippines seems to be lagging behind other countries in terms of procuring COVID-19 vaccines.

Gordon also surmised that the Philippines is favoring a Chinese-made vaccine with the hope that its supply could be given for free.

“Hindi kaya pinagbibigyan natin yung isang bansa diyan na gustong magbili sa atin pero medyo nakaantala yun sa atin dahil umaasa tayo na makakakuha tayo ng libre,” he said.

“Mayroong mga nagsulat na sinasabi eh may preference raw ang administrasyon sa Chinese medicine… I hope that’s not the reason bakit tayo medyo nahuli as you said,” he added.

Dizon assured that that is not the case and that the government is currently working on securing supply deals with other vaccine manufacturers.

Negotiations with pharmaceutical companies are also on final stages, he added.

Malacañang earlier said the government has already secured 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from China’s Sinovac. An initial batch of 50,000 doses of this vaccine will be delivered in the country by next month.

Apart from China’s Sinovac, the government said it is also eyeing to roll out in February the distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine via the COVAX facility.

The COVAX facility is a platform that seeks to ensure fast and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

‘Suntok sa buwan’: Drilon expresses misgivings on gov’t COVID-19 vaccination plan

Robie de Guzman   •   January 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday described the national government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan as “suntok sa buwan” after the Senate conducted a hearing to tackle the program.

“Parang suntok sa buwan ang vaccination program lalo na yung sinasabi nila na 148 million doses within the year. The arrival of the vaccines is not even definite,” Drilon said in a statement.

“How can they say that they will be able to purchase 148 million doses by the end of 2021 when up to now, we haven’t given any Emergency Use Authorization to any vaccine and we have not been able to raise, through loans, all the needed amount for the purchase of the vaccines?” he added.

Government officials involved in the COVID-19 response on Monday faced senators to explain the administration’s plans for the immunization of Filipinos against the novel coronavirus disease.

The government earlier said it is planning to inoculate 70 million Filipinos this year and that it is eyeing to rollout the vaccination plan in the coming months when the initial batch of at least 50,000 vaccines is delivered in February.

The Food and Drug Administration previously said it may issue an emergency use authorization for the application of Pfizer and AstraZeneca within January.

“I am not reassured in the slightest by what I heard. To be honest, I am more confused now. The government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan fails to provide the public the assurance they need from the government,” Drilon said.

“The plan is good on paper. The plan is filled with uncertainties and it leaves too much to chance,” he added.

Drilon said the government’s target of securing 148 million doses within the year is “simply difficult to achieve given what Sec. Carlito Galvez said that 80% of global supply has already been procured by rich countries.”

“If only the government was able to make advanced purchases last year, similar to other low-and-middle income countries such as Indonesia and Brazil, maybe we would have a better chance of securing these 148 million doses of vaccines this year,” he added.

The minority leader added the funding is not even guaranteed at this point as the government has not fully secured the necessary loans to fund the P70 billion in the unprogrammed fund for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

The government has allotted P82.5 billion for the purchase of the vaccines but only P12.5 billion is in the programmed appropriation – P2.5 billion will come from the General Appropriations Act and another P10 billion under the extended Bayanihan 2.

“They have a better chance of achieving their targets if they lift the restriction that they set that prevents local chief executives and the private sector from buying vaccines directly from the manufacturers,” Drilon said.

“It will facilitate a speedy purchase of the much-needed vaccines. I believe there is a consensus among the senators insofar as lifting this restriction is concerned,” he added.

Metro Manila LGUs allot funds for purchase of COVID-19 vaccine

Robie de Guzman   •   January 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Various local government units (LGU) in Metro Manila on Monday said they have allocated funds for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for their constituents.

Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian said the city government will earmark P150 million budget for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines which will be provided to residents for free.

The Navotas City government also allotted P20 million for the vaccine procurement, adding that the amount can still be increased subject to the final budget allocation for the city.

Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez likewise announced the allotment of P250 million for the procurement of vaccines.

Olivarez said the vaccination program will prioritize frontline workers, senior citizens and other residents who are vulnerable to the viral disease.

The San Juan City government also said it has allocated P50 million while local government of Muntinlupa said it has earmarked P170 million for its COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Makati City Mayor Abby Binay earlier announced they have prepared P1 billion budget for their COVID-19 vaccine procurement. She said the vaccines will be administered for all Makati citizens for free.

The local governments of Manila and Quezon City both announced earlier they have allotted funds for their COVID-19 vaccination program.

Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso also said they have launched a pre-registration portal for the free vaccination for residents. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)

PH gov’t urged to include farmers, fishers in COVID-19 vaccine plan

Robie de Guzman   •   December 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Pangilinan has called on the Duterte administration to include farmers and fisherfolks in the list of groups to be prioritized in the government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

In a statement issued on Monday, Pangilinan pointed out that farmers and fisherfolks are “frontliners too and should be prioritized in the government’s game plan to control COVID, including its plan to vaccinate essential workers.”

“Sila ang nagpapakain sa atin. Hindi ba dapat prayoridad sa vaccination plan ang ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda?” Pangilinan said.

“Biktima na ng pandemya ang kanilang kabuhayan, at pinalala pa ng mga nagdaang bagyo. Pero araw-araw pa rin silang nagbubungkal ng lupa para hindi tayo magutom. Kaya isa yan sa mga tanong na ihahain natin sa Committee of the Whole,” he added.

The Senate adopted on December 14 Pangilinan’s Senate Resolution 594 seeking to convene the Senate Committee of the Whole to look into the government’s vaccination program.

In filing the resolution, the senator emphasized that majority of the farmers and fishers are among the poorest sectors.

“Hindi nila kakayaning makabili ng vaccines kung walang suporta ng pamahalaan. Karamihan din sa kanila ay walang ID, walang access sa mga ospital. Ano ang plano? Paano sisiguruhing maabot sila ng vaccine sa lalong madaling panahon?” he added.

Pangilinan cited the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) report showing losses in agriculture due to typhoons Quinta and Ulysses, and super typhoon Rolly pegged at P12.3 billion.

In Cagayan Valley alone, agriculture damages were at P2.2 billion.

“Konti lamang ang itinaas ng budget ng DA para sa 2021. Maraming kailangang bigyan ng pansin kagaya ng pagpapaigting ng crop protection at insurance schemes upang may sasalo sa pinsalang dulot ng mga sakuna at pandemya. Dapat ipasok din sa usapan na kailangan ng vaccines ng ating mga magsasaka at mangingisda,” Pangilinan said.

The Senate Committee of the Whole is expected to convene in January 2021 before Senate resumes session.

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