Gov’t fast-tracks vaccines’ rollout

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go has assured the Duterte administration, with which he is close identified, is committed to fast-track, and is actually fast-tracking the government’s  Covid-19 vaccine roll-out program.

At the Parola, Tondo, Manila relief distribution event to some 361 fire victims last Wednesday. He said President Duterte  constantly urges concerned officials to do everything necessary to expedite the vaccine rollout.

“We have been discussing this matter almost every day with President Duterte and key government officials, like our vaccine czar, Sec. Duque, to facilitate the process,” Go told media.

He said the FDA simply wants to make sure the vaccines procured are safe and effective, but “I’m also calling on them to fast-track all)” he added.

Go said the apparent delay in the vaccine delivery to the country may be due to challenges posed by the limited global supply and with some developed countries getting the biggest chunk of the doses produced so far.

He assured, however, that COVAX (Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access) facility has already committed 117,000 Pfizer vaccines and 5.5 million doses from AstraZeneca to the Philippines. COVAX  is a global initiative led by the World Health Organization, among other institutions, designed to ensure equitable access to vaccines, especially for poor and developing countries.

Last Tuesday, the Senate passed on final reading Senate Bill No. 2057, which includes the provision for the indemnification fund, among others. The House of Representatives adopted the Senate version of the measure and passed the bill on the same day.

The Senate measure, SB 2057, aims to hasten the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines, allows empowers local government units to procure vaccines and make advance payments subject to existing laws, and to establish an indemnification fund to cover the possible expenses and claims arising from adverse effects of the vaccines.

Neither the executive branch nor legislators committed remission. It is better for others to roll out the vaccines first so we can see their effects and better study them further, Go said.

The senator said he has no particular vaccine preference. ”Whatever is effective and safe, let’s give them to the public),” he added.

With the help and guidance of health experts, Go said authorities must intensify their information and education campaign on the government’s Covid-19 vaccination program to allay fears and boost public confidence in the vaccines.

Vaccine Czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. for his part assured they are doubling efforts to get early delivery of vaccines by the first quarter this year. “This is the biggest challenge for us because the global demand is high but the supply for the first quarter is limited,” he said/

Galvez said they are currently negotiating with the governments of Britain, China, India, and Russia for the delivery of additional vaccine doses within the first quarter of the year, pointing out the need to vaccinate around 1.7 million healthcare workers, the indigent population, and senior citizens.

He said the country might offer to pay “a little higher” to ensure the early delivery of Covid-19 vaccines within the first quarter. “That’s why we are negotiating with the vaccine manufacturers to make an early delivery, and we are also negotiating to even pay a little higher just to ensure the early delivery of the vaccines by the first and second quarters,” he added.

Galvez said they expect to receive about 161 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine by the end of 2021, adding that LGUs and the private sector that have signed a tripartite agreement with the AstraZeneca vaccines have already provided advance payment.

The government is now polishing the supply agreements for some 17 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, he shared.

The vaccine czar also said the government had “marathon negotiations finalizing the language of the supply agreement” for Moderna vaccines, and they are now polishing the terms for the three accords which include the terms for indemnification and supply delivery.

Galvez said the long process of negotiations for vaccine procurement involves ensuring that “malpractices and willful neglect” could be covered by the agreements.

He pointed out that while the country is working on the indemnity fund to cover the possible adverse effects of the Covid-19 vaccine, the negotiations “must be fair and square.”

He also stressed the importance of Senate Bill 2057 which proposes the vital indemnification clause required for Covid-19 vaccines.

“They really intend to protect not only the manufacturers but also the vaccines, hence we have allocated indemnification fund just in case vaccine recipients may be hospitalized due to adverse effects,” he said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced Thursday  the first batch of China’s Sinovac Biotech vaccines consisting of 600,000 doses will arrive in the country on February 28.

The Manila city government has offered to vaccinate the city’s essential workers that include jeepney and other public utility vehicle drivers, vendors, and mall workers using the Sinovac vaccine against coronavirus disease (Covid-19), in case it arrives first in the country.

“Vaccinating these workers who deal directly with consumers every day may restore consumer confidence which would help contribute to economic recovery. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno said, even as assured that receiving the vaccine will be voluntary.

Moreno stressed the importance of getting these workers vaccinated as soon as possible because they interact with more people daily.

“We will ask them what vaccine they prefer, AstraZeneca. Pfizer or Sinovac. The Sinovac has arrived and this is what we offer for now. Those who do not want them may wait, but I will keep on reminding you that you are always at risk without the vaccine,” he emphasized.