DOH slammed for allegedly preventing firms from procuring COVID-19 vaccines

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 22 2021 09:04 AM | Updated as of Mar 22 2021 02:19 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE) - At least 2 senators have criticized the Department of Health for allegedly excluding several industries from assisting in government's vaccination drive.

A draft administrative order from the Department of Health showed that "tobacco, formula milk, and other industries in conflict with the interest of public health" will not be a part of the government's COVID-19 vaccination program, said Sen. Imee Marcos who secured a copy of the document.

"There are those who seriously question such a policy... nakakainis talaga (it's really annoying)," Marcos said, when asked what prompted her source to leak the unsigned administrative order.

"Continuing to block entire industries from accessing the vaccines is tantamount to mass murder," she said.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said these same firms have donated coronavirus vaccines to government.

"Itong mga kompanya ding ito ay siyang nagbabayad ng buwis. Talagang kapalpakan, di na nagiisip itong taga-DOH at IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19). Maraming namamatay dahil sa incompetence nitong mga taong ito," Drilon told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo Monday.

(These companies also pay taxes. This is really incompetence, the DOH and IATF don't really think. Many will die because of their incompetence.)

"The malicious and misplaced attempt to insert such illegal provision is a manifestation the incompetence and ineptitude of the Department of Health," he told reporters in a text message.

"[It] further erodes whatever is left of the confidence of the people on the vaccination program," he said.

For his part, Palace Spokesman Harry Roque said the draft administrative order prohibiting tobacco companies, milk companies from buying vaccines for their workers "has not been finalized." 

"I think given the public uproar, whoever the proponent is, would think twice about it because after all we are in a pandemic and the more vaccines that we have would be better for the country," he said in an interview on ANC's Headstart. 

Roque noted current COVID-19 vaccines are not covered by a certificate of product registration and are not commercially available.

He said vaccine makers will only sell the vaccines under emergency use authorization and required governments to purchase.

"These manufacturers of vaccines are protecting themselves from lawsuits arising from possible side effects of the vaccines, which are still technically experimental. So there’s no way out. The law allows the private sector to buy but currently there’s nothing available which is classified already as for general use," he said. 

The DOH in a statement Sunday said it "commits to provide all Filipinos equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines based solely on the priority listing."

"Any provisions that may tend to discriminate against any sector of the population from accessing COVID-19 vaccines will not be considered in the final version of the IRR (implementing rules and regulations," it said.

"In the consultation process, the consensus is to honor the multiparty agreement among DOH, NTF, vaccine manufacturers, and other procuring entities like the private companies and LGUs. All comments and recommendations from different stakeholders are still welcome until the finalization and approval of the IRR."

The private sector and government had procured 17 million jabs from AstraZeneca, which is set to arrive May with an initial batch of 2.6 million, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion earlier said. The remaining balance of 14.5 million will arrive in the third quarter, he added.