Duterte changes stance, OKs advance payments for COVID-19 vaccines

Duterte changes stance, OKs advance payments for COVID-19 vaccines
President Rodrigo Duterte confers with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III during a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Presidential Guest House in Panacan, Davao City on August 10 , 2020.
Presidential Photo / Joey Dalumpines

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed advance payments for COVID-19 vaccines, marking a shift in the stance of the chief executive who earlier opposed making advance payments for the drug to end the coronavirus pandemic.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced Thursday that the Philippines would enter advanced market commitments — legally-binding agreements for an amount of funds to subsidize the purchase, at a given price, of an as yet unavailable vaccine, according to the World Health Organization —. with private vaccine developers.

"If we don’t agree, we might get left behind by countries who would obtain the vaccine," Roque said in Filipino during his regular press briefing.

Duterte previously shunned making advance payments to pharmaceutical companies, saying he would prioritize vaccines from China and Russia as they supposedly are not asking for reservation fees.

Why the president changed his mind

Roque said Duterte changed his mind when he saw the list of other countries who have made advance payments for potential vaccines.

Health officials earlier sought Duterte’s clearance for advance payments, as the country’s procurement law prohibits these unless with the approval of the president.

The implementing rules and regulations of the procurement law says that advance payments may only be made after being approved by the president and will not exceed 15% of the contract amount, unless otherwise directed by the president.

Aside from securing vaccines manufactured by private firms, advance payments are also needed to obtain vaccines from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization COVAX facility, which is supposed to guarantee participating countries with enough doses for 20% of their population. 

The Philippines is setting aside about P1.5-billion in advance payment to comply with the requirements of COVAX to enable the country to have guaranteed access to the vaccine once available. — Xave Gregorio

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