MANILA (UPDATE) - The delay in the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility does not mean the Philippines is losing its allocation from the global initiative, vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., said Friday.
The arrival of Pfizer coronavirus shots from the COVAX facility was supposed to arrive by mid-February but this was pushed back by a week as the government fixes an indemnity agreement.
"I think the delay is only for 1 week. Wala naman sinabing ma-ano po 'yun," Galvez told ANC's Headstart when asked to react to Sen. Panfilo Lacson's tweet that the Philippines "may be losing the free 44 million vaccines" due to the indemnity issue.
(I think the delay is only for 1 week. There was no mention of something like that.)
"‘Yung tinatawag nating delay, it’s not coming from the Philippine government. We are only on the receiving end and we are finishing our documentation on time pero ‘yung tinatawag nating indemnification clause, matagal na naming hinahanap 'yun, pero binigay lang this week," he said.
(The delay is not coming from the Philippine government. We are only on the receiving end and we are finishing our documentation on time, but the indemnification clause, we've looked for that for a long time, but was only given last week.)
Galvez said government lawyers are hoping to finish the indemnity agreement this Friday "so that we won't have any more obstruction on the delivery of the vaccine."
He explained that an indemnity agreement is necessary as it would state that the responsibility of the manufacturer in the event of any adverse effects on the vaccine recipients would be shouldered by the government.
While the current Universal Healthcare System already mandates that PhilHealth will shoulder the hospitalization in any case of adverse effects, he said both the House of Representatives and the Senate have acknowledged the an indemnification law would be better as it would create a separate fund especially for this.
Galvez said he and Health Sec. Francisco Duque III have communicated to President Rodrigo Duterte that this must be urgent "so that it would open up our COVAX doses."
Apart from the Pfizer vaccine from the COVAX facility, the Philippines is also expecting to receive Sinovac shots within this month. However, the Food and Drug Administration is yet to issue an emergency use authorization for the Chinese drug.
NO SUPPLY AGREEMENT YET
In a Senate hearing on Thursday, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon expressed concern that the Philippines is yet to sign a supply agreement with any vaccine manufacturer. Galvez told senators then that the government has secured about 108 million doses of vaccines through term sheets.
In the interview, the vaccine czar emphasized that the supply agreement is dictated by the supplier, and not the recipients like the Philippines.
"Kung sabihin nila, we will pause a while, even though sabihin natin na we meet, pero wala pong definitive na date ng delivery, how can we have yung payment and terms?" he said.
(If they say we will pause a while, even though we meet it but there is no definitive date of delivery, how can we have the payment and terms?)
"Hindi po delaying. The ball is not in our hands. Nasa kanila," he added.
(It's not delaying. The ball is not in our hands. It's in theirs.)
Only Sinovac has given an exact date of delivery, which is on February 23. The company has also committed to delivering 1 million within the first quarter, he said.
Last month, senators questioned the government's preference for the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine after latest data showed it has a lower efficacy rate.
On Thursday, the total coronavirus infections in the country climbed to 543,282, with 92.1 percent of them or 500,335 having recovered from the disease. There were also 11,469 patients who succumbed to it.