No pressure to purchase Russia, China vaccines despite Duterte comment, says DOH

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2020 06:59 PM

Nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot as the world's biggest study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y. Hans Pennink, AP Photo

MANILA — While President Rodrigo Duterte complained about countries requiring “cash advance” for the pre-order of COVID-19 vaccines, his preference for those developed by Russian and China will not affect the Philippines’ evaluation process, the Department of Health (DOH) said Wednesday.

“Walang pressure. Katulad ng sabi natin, kung anumang dadating na bakuna dito sa ating bansa, it will go through the usual and our regular regulatory process,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing when asked if the DOH is pressured by Duterte’s comments on Monday.

(There is no pressure. As we said, each vaccine will go through our usual and regular regulatory process.)

Duterte had said he “will give preference to Russia and China, provided that their vaccine is as good as any other in the market.” He said this as he complained about other countries that “want cash advance” before the vaccine is delivered.

“Kung wala tayong ibigay sa kanila cash advance, eh di walang vaccine. Eh walang vaccine, di maghalikan na lang tayong lahat para mas madali,” he said.

(If we don’t have cash advance, then we can’t have a vaccine. If there is no vaccine, then we might as well just kiss each other.)

Vergeire pointed out that Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act prohibits the country from pre-paying for a vaccine.

She said procurement rules require technical specifications of the item to be purchased, and it is only when the items are delivered that the country can pay for it.

“Dahil d'yan, medyo restricted tayo,” she said. “Of course, di naman tayo magpapahuli. Nakikipag-usap tayo sa lahat ng manufacturers, tinitignan paano tayo magkakaroon ng advantage para magka-access tayo nang mas maayos dito sa bakunang ito.”

(Because of that, we are slightly restricted. Of course, we won’t lag behind. We are already talking to manufacturers, checking how we can have an advantage so we can access the vaccines.)

She said the country’s participation in the COVAX facility helps since it gives assistance to low- and middle-income countries. Participation in the said facility would grant the Philippines a certain allocation of vaccines.

Vergeire said participating in clinical trials of vaccine manufacturers also help.

“By doing this, we increase our chances of allocation,” she said. “We help with the science.”

The Philippines has recorded 272,934 confirmed coronavirus infections, as of Wednesday, of which, 60,344 are active cases. The total number of recoveries is 207,858, while the death toll is 4,732.