DOH mulls exempting COVID vaccines from procurement law to fast-track acquisition

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 11 2020 04:46 PM

Video courtesy of the Department of Health

MANILA — The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday said discussions were ongoing whether to exempt potential COVID-19 vaccines from procurement rules in order to expedite its acquisition, as many manufacturers require advance payments for vaccines. 

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said her department has sought the assistance of the Office of the President (OP) regarding the matter. 

“Yung sinasabi na bawal kang mag-advance payment . . . Pinag-uusapan yan ngayon and we have sought the assistance of the [OP] para magkaroon tayo ng mas malinaw na direksyon kung puwede magkaroon ng special exemption from this specific provision of the law that [states] we cannot pay until the order is here,” Vergeire said in a press briefing. 

(There are ongoing discussions on the matter regarding the law’s provision which prohibits us from giving advance payments. We have sought the assistance of OP to give us clear directions on the possibility of giving special exemption from the provision of the law.)

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

The law also requires technical specifications of the item to be purchased, and it is only when the items are delivered that the country can pay for it.

But many of the country’s pharmaceutical partners require advance payments, she pointed out. 

“Many of these . . . manufacturers and also these partners that we are negotiating with are requiring these advanced payments so pinag-uusapan yan ngayon at ginagawan ng pag-aaral kung maaari tayong magkaroon ng special exemption because of this pandemic,” she said. 

(We are discussing it right now and we are studying how we could get special exemption despite the pandemic.) 

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE on Monday announced that their experimental vaccine is more than 90 percent effective against the deadly disease.

The Philippines as of Tuesday registered 1,347 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the country's total number of infections to 399,749. The country has 30,169 active infections, accounting for 7.5 percent of the total cases.