Duterte creates task force on COVID-19 Immunization
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. yesterday said the new task force the creation of which was prescribed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases would work on mechanisms for effective distribution of vaccines as well as orderly immunization activities.
AFP/Jean Francois Monier
Duterte creates task force on COVID-19 Immunization
Helen Flores, Sheila Crisostomo, Christian Mendez (The Philippine Star) - October 31, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government is setting up a task force to manage the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available, as well as the conduct of nationwide immunization.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. yesterday said the new task force the creation of which was prescribed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) would work on mechanisms for effective distribution of vaccines as well as orderly immunization activities.

“The creation of a task force is to ensure the successful and efficient deployment of COVID-19 vaccines to target population,” Roque said in a statement.

Through Resolution No. 82 adopted last Thursday, the IATF designated the National Task Force Against COVID-19 – with the Department of Health (DOH) as its lead agency – to supervise the COVID-19 Immunization Program Management Organizational Structure.

“First of all, it’s part of the preparations for our acquisition of vaccines for COVID-19,” Roque said in Filipino in a television interview.

The IATF has directed concerned agencies to meet immediately to thresh out an action plan.

Roque, concurrent IATF spokesman, said the DOH has been directed to immediately convene the Task Group COVID-19 Immunization Management and establish sub-task groups as necessary.

Earlier, President Duterte said he wanted vaccines to be given to the entire Filipino population. The Chief Executive later said he wanted to prioritize the less fortunate families as well as medical frontline professionals and members of the police and the military in the immunization program.

The DOH earlier estimated the government needs around P12.1 billion to provide vaccines to priority recipients, or way above the P2.5 billion allocated for COVID-19 vaccines under the 2021 budget.

Lawmakers have expressed their intent to increase the amount to cover at least 20 million Filipinos initially.

On Monday, Duterte expressed optimism that there are countries, especially China and Russia, which have already developed the vaccine for COVID-19.

After being briefed by his anti-COVID-19 team, the President said that a vaccine may become available in the Philippines by early 2021.

The President also voiced his intent to pay for the vaccines through government-to-government transaction.

Australian offer

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director general Eric Domingo said an Australian company is seeking permission to conduct clinical trials in the country, the fourth vaccine manufacturer to make such an offer.

He revealed yesterday being notified by the Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) of Clover Biopharmaceuticals AUS PTY Ltd., showing “interest” to do clinical trials in the country. It is undergoing “pre-screening” by VEP.

The three other firms are China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd., Johnson & Johnson-Janssen Pharmaceuticals from the United States and the Gamaleya Research Institute from Russia.

Domingo said Gamaleya may begin trials once it submits documents required by the FDA.

“Sinovac is now under evaluation with FDA for regulatory requirements and, of course, the technical evaluation and the Ethics Board approval,” Domingo said at a briefing.

Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Friday assured manufacturers of vaccines of fair treatment from the government.

“One thing DFA will do is lay bare the guts of international vaccine development, contracting, deployment and manufacturing so no one corners the market, no one is excluded, private sector participation is encouraged,” Locsin said on Twitter.

According to Locsin, he and officials of the FDA were set to meet representatives from the United Kingdom-based AstraXeneca yesterday.

“We’re meeting AstraXeneca later with FDA. Will assure them fairness across the board, no favors, no funny stuff. We need all the vaccines we can get; Xeneca will be sold at cost,” he said.

The Philippines is part of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX), which is led by the World Health Organization.

Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña had said the government may spend P1.5 billion for the country’s participation in the COVAX facility.

According to Locsin, the candidate vaccines under COVAX are Inovio (US) Pfizer/Moderna (US), CureVac (Germany), Merck/Themis (US/Austria), AstraZeneca/Oxford (UK), University of Hong Kong, Novarax (US), Clover Biopharma (China) and University of Queensland (Australia).

COVID-19 VACCINE
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