President Rodrigo Duterte has said the government is seriously addressing the pandemic efficiently through its coordination with local government units and the private sector, saying if ever there are people who want to believe what the opposition says, follow them, otherwise follow the government.
Duterte made the statement during his televised public address Monday night, expressing hope that the pandemic would end soon as the vaccine was ready to roll out in the coming months.
“The only salvation, actually, for those who have not been sickened with COVID-19 and pending the rollout of the vaccine is really that you follow the (health) protocol imposed by the government,” the President said.
“Again, to the Filipino people, ‘for those who want to believe the opposition and to people trying to make an impression, go side with them and if not, you’re with us,” Duterte, partly in Filipino, said.
“If you follow them (government), then you have great chances of not getting it or at last when you get it, there’s already the vaccine, then it will somehow mitigate the (sickness and) give you the relief of the propensity of this microbe to multiply, to increase,” Duterte said.
The President also vowed to personally look into the prices of the coronavirus vaccines secured by the government to determine if they were “reasonable.”
Cost of vaccines
Duterte said he intended to “take a look and ask around” about the cost of the vaccines, saying the government’s supply arrangements made by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. would still undergo a review.
“That’s not the end of everything. The decision of Galvez is not, I said, the sum total of it all. It has to be reviewed,” Duterte said.
“And finally for me, I will take a look and ask around if it is really reasonable pricing for us,” he added.
The price of the COVID-19 vaccines purchased by the government is among the contentious issues tackled in a recent Senate inquiry.
Some lawmakers have pressed officials to reveal the price for the sake of transparency but Galvez declined to do so owing to the confidentiality deal with the manufacturers.
The Palace earlier dispelled concerns about the alleged high cost of the vaccine, saying a dose developed by China’s Sinovac only costs more or less P600.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the military would play an important role in the government COVID-19 vaccine rollout through the use of its facilities and its personnel know-how.
In his report to President Duterte on Monday, Lorenzana said they accepted the offer of businessman Joey Concepcion to train military-medical personnel in conducting vaccination drives especially in the provinces.
The training will start next week in time before the first vaccine delivery arrives, Lorenzana said.
The military could also help in storing and transporting temperature-sensitive vaccines. Lorenzana said the Philippine Navy has four ships equipped with freezers with temperatures ranging from -15 to -18 degrees. The freezers have a total capacity of five tons.
The Philippine Coast Guard, on the other hand, also has nine ships with similar equipment. The PCG freezers have temperatures ranging from -20 to -25 degrees, which, according to the defense chief, will also be ideal for transporting the vaccines. The freezers have a total capacity of about 526 cubic feet.
Among the temperature-sensitive vaccines include those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, which according to experts, would be likely administered in urban centers for easier handling and storage.
The President said previously that he would tap the police and the military in carrying out the government mass vaccination program citing their nationwide command and control structure.
In related developments, the Department of Health said on Monday that, while the COVAX facility would provide coronavirus disease 2019 vaccine to 20 percent of the country’s population, only 15 percent would be free, while the remaining 5 percent would be paid for by the government.
“We would like to clarify that we will continue to receive vaccine allocation for 20 percent of the population from COVAX. Previously this entire 20 percent was to be provided to us for free,” DOH said in a statement.
“Based on latest developments, only 15 percent will be free, and the remaining 5 percent will be paid by the country,” it added. DOH said the budget for the remaining 5 percent had been secured.
Earlier, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Philippines would get COVID-19 vaccines for around 22 million people through the COVAX facility.
The COVAX initiative is a global collaboration of manufacturers and experts that seeks to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
COVAX is co-led by the GAVI vaccines alliance, the World Health Organization, and the CEPI Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. It aims to deliver two billion doses of effective, approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.
The Philippines had allocated P73.2 billion for the procurement of the vaccines, with P40 billion coming from multilateral agencies, P20 billion from domestic sources, and P13.2 billion from bilateral agreements.
Can still get
People who have taken COVID-19 jabs can still get infected with the virus, a public health expert said Tuesday.
"There's no vaccine that has a 100 percent efficacy," Dr. Lulu Bravo, executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, said during an ANC interview.
"When they say 95 percent efficacious or 70 percent efficacious, meaning there's still that percentage that will not prevent disease," she added.
In a bulletin, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had said building immunity against COVID-19 "typically takes a few weeks."
"That means it’s possible a person could be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination and still get sick. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection," it said.
Bravo said that COVID-19 inoculation could be affected by several factors such as lack of supply and temperature control issues, unlike those in clinical trials with controlled environment.
The Philippines is set to spend P82.5 billion for the procurement of 148 million doses of COVID-19 from 7 pharmaceutical companies, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez had said.
Pfizer and Covax are set to provide the country with 40 million COVID-19 vaccine doses each, he said.
Novavax is expected to supply some 40 million doses, while AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Gamaleya are ready to sell 25 million doses each, he added.
Senator Nancy Binay has filed a bill which seeks to establish a “vaccine indemnification fund” to compensate Filipinos who would suffer adverse side effects from inoculation of COVID-19 vaccine.
Under Binay’s proposed Senate Bill 2015, the indemnity fund would be subsidized by pharmaceutical companies that supply the government with vaccines for public immunization programs.
Binay said pharmaceutical companies participating in public tenders and were awarded government contracts for the supply of such vaccines” are mandated to reserve at least one percent of the contract price to form part of the indemnification fund, according to the measure.
The reserved amount, Binay suggested in her measure, shall be deposited with the Bureau of Treasury of the Department of Budget and Management.
However, the measure’s initial implementation would be charged against the appropriations of the DOH in its current and subsequent budget.
Meanwhile, Senator Ronald Dela Rosa expressed confidence in the country’s vaccine czar in the face of alleged overpricing in the
procurement of Covid19 vaccines under the national vaccination program of the government following a meeting with the official recently.
He vouched for the integrity of Secretary Carlito Galvez, implementer of the National Task Force against COVID-19 and the country’s vaccine czar.
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