MANILA - Local officials on Tuesday called on the national government to fast-track the approval of the commercial product registration of COVID-19 vaccines, which would allow localities to directly purchase virus jabs from manufacturers.
Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) President Dakila Cua explained in a public briefing that pharmaceutical companies no longer want to deal directly with local government units (LGUs).
This developed even as existing policies allow local governments to enter into tripartite agreements with the national government and vaccine manufacturers.
“Iyon po ang isa nating panawagan na sana mapabilis iyong pagbibigay ng commercially available or CPR (commercial product registration) ng mga bakuna na binibigyan naman na rin sa ibang bansa," Cua said.
(We are calling for the speedy the distribution of commercial product registration for our vaccines, just like what other countries did)
"Para tuwina po, to be available in the botika iyong mga bakunang ito, private sector, mamamayan, even LGUs diretso na pong makakabili,” the official explained.
(This would make the vaccines available in our pharmacies, which would enable the private sector, ordinary Filipinos and LGUs to buy it directly)
ULAP has been advocating for an equitable distribution of vaccines outside Metro Manila, amid limitations in the national supply.
Cua however noted that the national government had to focus vaccine supplies in the National Capital Region following a surge in cases due to community transmission of the Delta variant.
At present he said, vaccine manufacturers only want to talk to the national government regarding procurement.
“Kahit mayroon na po tayo iyong batas na ipinasa noong nakaraang March, ay may mga pharmaceuticals na ayaw pa rin pong makipag-deal with the LGUs. National government lang daw po talaga exclusively ang gusto nilang kausap."
(While we have a law passed last March, there are are firms that refuse to have deals with LGUs. They only want to talk to the national government exclusively.)
According to ULAP, vaccination coverage in provinces have reached 18 percent to 20 percent by the end of August until the first weeks of September.
But Cua noted that provinces that have invested on logistics and storage facilities have been able to receive more supplies of vaccines.
"'Yon talaga ang isang factor, kasi one of the reasons nga kung bakit some provinces like Iloilo... province and those near Metro Manila are able to receive slightly higher amounts of vaccines is because of the storage solution," he said.
(That's one factor. One of the reasons why some provinces, like Iloilo, or those near in Metro Manila, were able to receive a slightly higher amounts of vaccines is because of the storage solution)
"So iyong mga LGUs na nag invest in solutions - ay iyong transport, cold storage nakakatanggap po ng mga bakuna na mas maselan tulad po ng Pfizer, Moderna at Sputnik... wala po kasi talaga itong infrastructure, doon na rin may problema. Kaya iyon po ang nagiging bottleneck siguro noong ibang probinsya,” he added.
(The LGUs that invested in solutions, transport, cold storage, among others, were able to receive vaccines that are more sensitive like Pfizer, Moderna and Sputnik V. Localities that were not able to invest in infrastructure had problems. That's the problem of other provinces)
Last month, vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. said the unsteady COVID-19 vaccine supply and regulatory issues are hounding the tripartite procurement deals involving local governments.
Galvez said the government intends to honor the agreements and commitments under the multi-party agreements (MPA) "which have already been signed" with localities.
Since the rollout of its inoculation program last March 1, nearly 20.6 million people in the country have already been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 23.7 million have received their first shot.