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Duterte to allow private firms to import COVID-19 vaccines themselves

(Philstar.com) - March 29, 2021 - 11:04pm

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 11:41 p.m.) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night said he will allow private firms to import COVID-19 vaccines themselves, a departure from the policy that procurement can only be done through tripartite deals involving the government and the pharmaceutical firm.

Duterte said that government procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines has hit a snag because of tight supply.

"I have ordered [Secretary Carlito] Galvez to sign any document that will allow the private sector to import (vaccines) at will," Duterte said, referring to the former general in charge of vaccine procurement.

A million doses of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in the Philippines on Monday afternoon, but the president said the amount is just enough for medical frontliners. He said that vaccine supply has been affected by "a ruckus" abroad as countries scramble to get jabs for their citizens.

"Ang sunod na delivery natin is two million pero wala pang sigurado 'yan (the next delivery we're expecting is two million but that is not yet guaranteed)," the president also said.

Speaking later in the delayed-broadcast meeting, Galvez said that the country is assured of 1.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccine in April and another two million vaccine doses in May that he said "hopefully will arrive in time."

Galvez, who also oversees vaccination, said that 668,018 health workers have already received their first vaccine dose. "By April and May, we are targeting to have 500,000 to one million (persons) per week. [By] June and July, if the supplies are there, we are targeting 2-3 million per week," he also said. 

Why have a tripartite agreement in the first place?

It is unclear whether an order from the president is enough to allow the private sector to import vaccines.

According to the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act, private entities "may procure vaccines only in cooperation with the [Department of Health] and the [National Task Force Against COVID-19] through a multi-party agreement."

The law says these agreements must include the DOH and the vaccine supplier.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque last week explained that vaccines can only be purchased through tripartite agreements because the jabs have only been granted Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.

"We cannot do away with the tripartite agreement because while all companies can already buy vaccines for their employees, we still don't have commercially-available vaccines," he said then.

COVID-19 VACCINES NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
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