Why is COVID-19 vaccine czar an ex-general? 'Managerial skills' needed, says Palace

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 03 2020 03:13 PM | Updated as of Nov 03 2020 05:01 PM

Why is COVID-19 vaccine czar an ex-general? 'Managerial skills' needed, says Palace 1
President Rodrigo Duterte greets Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr. prior to the start of the Joint Armed Forces of the Philippines-Philippine National Police Command Conference at the Malacañang Palace on Feb. 6, 2020. Toto Lozano, Presidential Photo/File

 MANILA — "Managerial skills" are needed to facilitate the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine once it is out, Malacañang said Tuesday, as it sought to justify President Rodrigo Duterte's choice of an ex-general instead of a medical expert to lead immunization against the pandemic.

Duterte on Monday said the distribution of the vaccine, once it becomes available, would be led by former military chief and now peace process adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., who is also chief implementer of the National Task Force against COVID-19.

The vaccine operation "will entail logistics" because the drug has to be imported, stored in cold-chain facilities and kept frozen during distribution, said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. 

"Kinakailangan po talaga [ang vaccine czar] may managerial skills at sanay sa ganitong management processes," he told reporters. 

(The vaccine czar really needs managerial skills and expertise in management processes.)

"It's more of a logistics challenge than a medical challenge... Iyong medical issue involved dito ay kung safe po iyong vaccine, at iyan naman po ay tututukan ng FDA (Food and Drug Administration)," he added. 

(The medical issue involved here is whether or not the vaccine is safe, and the FDA would focus on that.)

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The President has several former military officials leading government's COVID-19 response, including Galvez, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu. 

Galvez said he would implement the vaccine policies of his "boss", Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who chairs the inter-agency task force leading the pandemic response. 

The health ministry on Monday reported 2,298 new coronavirus infections and 32 more deaths. In a bulletin, the agency said total confirmed cases had increased to 385,400, while deaths had reached 7,269. 

The Philippines has the second-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia. - With a report from Reuters