MANILA — A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) covers the advance payment that President Rodrigo Duterte authorized last week for potential vaccines against COVID-19, his spokesman said Tuesday.
Duterte allowed the advance fee for private vaccine developers to ensure that the Philippines will get a supply of the drug, Malacañang had said, 8 months into the COVID-19 pandemic that has dragged the economy into recession and robbed many of their livelihood while in prolonged quarantine.
Asked if the Philippines has forwarded the payment to vaccine makers, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said: "I think isa po rin iyan na covered by NDA."
(I think that is one of those covered by the NDA.)
"More or less, sigurado na iyong ating supply. Ang detalye hindi lang puwede ilabas dahil pumirma po tayo ng mga non-disclosure agreement," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(More or less our supply is secure. We cannot release the details because we signed non-disclosure agreements.)
In September, Duterte said developers "must be crazy" for asking a "reservation fee" while a vaccine has not yet been developed.
The President changed his mind after finding out that almost all vaccine developers require this fee to cover the cost of research and development, said Roque.
Even COVAX, a global collaboration that aims to ensure that even poor nations will get the vaccine, has a "money out" policy, he said.
"Mayroon din iyang risk, baka 'pag hindi naging successful ang vaccine, baka hindi maibalik ang pera," Roque said. "Mayroon po talagang risk na kailangan i-undertake ang lahat dahil wala namang kasiguraduhan talaga."
(There is also a risk that if the vaccine is not successful, the money might not be returned. There is really a risk that needs to be undertaken by everyone because there really is no certainty.)
Nonetheless, several developers recently announced that their COVID-19 vaccines are over 90-percent effective, he said.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the Philippines may start rolling out COVID-19 vaccines to the public by May next year.
The government is looking to place an advance procurement of about 24 million vaccines within the first quarter of next year, said Galvez. The initial batch of vaccines will be for frontliners, indigents, and the vulnerable sectors, he said.