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Proposed ban on vaccine procurement by certain firms scrapped

Rudy Santos, Jose Rodel Clapano, Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Proposed ban on vaccine procurement by certain firms scrapped
Galvez, also vaccine czar, made this clear amid concerns raised by some sectors regarding a proposal to prohibit companies producing or selling liquor, infant formula, sugary beverages and tobacco from buying vaccines for their employees.
AFP / Siphiwe Sibeko / Pool

MANILA, Philippines — There will be no prohibition on the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines by private firms, including those involved in the sale or manufacture of products “in conflict with public health,” National Task Force against COVID-19 (NTF) chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said yesterday.

Galvez, also vaccine czar, made this clear amid concerns raised by some sectors regarding a proposal to prohibit companies producing or selling liquor, infant formula, sugary beverages and tobacco from buying vaccines for their employees.

The supposed prohibition was in Section 5 of the draft Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) 11525 or the law establishing a national vaccination program.

“Our lawyers and DOF (Department of Finance) lawyers deleted this portion during our deliberations last Saturday,” Galvez said.

Section 5 of the draft IRR states that the NTF and Department of Health (DOH) shall review all requests of private entities to procure vaccines “to ensure that private entities who will be part of the agreement are not in any way related to the tobacco industry, products covered under EO 51 series of 1986 or the National Code of Marketing of breast milk substitutes, breast milk supplement and other related products or other products in conflict with public health.”

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque also stressed that private firms are allowed to purchase vaccines for their employees but only under a tripartite arrangement with the government and the vaccine manufacturer.

Senators welcomed the development. Sen. Francis Pangilinan lauded Galvez’s arguing against the DOH proposal by pointing out its detrimental effect on efforts to speed up the acquisition of vaccines.

“Galvez is right and I pray he continues to demonstrate leadership in the vaccine rollout. I pray he will soar like an eagle and to borrow the term, despite being surrounded by turkeys,” Pangilinan said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he felt gratified by the deletion of the provision.

“The malicious and misplaced attempt to insert such illegal provision is a manifestation of the incompetence and ineptitude of the DOH, which further erodes whatever is left of the confidence of the people in the vaccination program,” Drilon said.

The Infant and Pediatric Nutrition Association of the Philippines (IPNAP) also welcomed the development and thanked members of both houses of Congress, as well as officials of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), for ensuring a sustainable campaign to fight the pandemic.

“Filipinos have united against COVID-19 since the start of pandemic last year. Everybody supported the government’s efforts and directives in order to win this battle for the sake of our country’s survival,” IPNAP executive director Dr. Anthony Golez said in a statement.

Meanwhile, a Philippine Airlines (PAL) aircraft carrying 400,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by Beijing will arrive tomorrow at 7 a.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The delivery is part of the batch of 600,000 doses that arrived on Feb.28. The turnover of the doses jumpstarted the government’s vaccination program.

“We at PAL consider this as a milestone because we are the first local carrier to be able to pick up the most needed vaccines for the people of the Republic of the Philippines,” PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said.

Galvez, Chinese Ambassador Ambassador Huang Xilian and PAL officials are expected to welcome the flight.

Earlier, the government finalized a P700-million purchase deal with Sinovac for the supply of one million more doses of COVID-19 vaccine. The doses are expected to arrive next month.

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