MANILA - Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday dismissed claims he cost the Philippines quick access to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.
Speaking to ANC's "Headstart," he said a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) he signed with Pfizer had to go through reiterations to ensure the provisions were not "onerous and disadvantageous."
"There's no such thing that I did not act quick enough," he said. "As a physician, my overriding principle in practice of medicine is to err on the side of caution."
He also clarified that Pfizer never promised it would provide the Philippines 10 million doses of its vaccine upon signing the CDA, contrary to reports.
Several officials had said Duque "dropped the ball" in the country's immediate procurement of the Pfizer vaccine, now already in use in the United Kingdom and the United States.
The vaccine, known to have one of the highest efficacy rates of at least 90 percent, was also developed by German company BioNTech.
"No, walang ganoon (there was no such thing like that). It was all indicative numbers. There was no definitive supply," he said.
Duque said he was told by vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. that there was a problem in the manufacturing of vaccines due to lack of supply of raw materials.
“Besides, there was nothing binding. Nothing in our talks. So this was all open-ended, exploratory and it was really meant to just get the data from Pfizer to know more about the safety profile of the vaccine, the efficacy, the results of the clinical phase 1 and 2 trials because at that time they are still not done with their clinical trial phase 3," he added.
The health chief bared that Pfizer sent an overview of their proposal on June 24. It was referred to the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) as lead agency for evaluation of experimental vaccines against COVID-19.
On Aug. 7, the Department of Health (DOH) met with Pfizer to discuss technology it used in producing the vaccine. The vaccine was based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which uses a chemical messenger to instruct cells to make proteins that mimic the outer surface of the new coronavirus, thereby creating immunity.
Pfizer then sent a draft of the CDA on Aug. 11, which was initially meant to be signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, he said.
On Sept. 24, Duque said the DOH was advised by the Office of the President that it would be the signatory to the CDA instead.
He said he signed the CDA on Oct. 20 only after several iterations on some provisions.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., in a tweet Tuesday, had said “somebody dropped the ball” in the race to get the first batch of vaccines from Pfizer.
Locsin said 10 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which were supposedly financed by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, were set to be shipped to Clark in January.
The novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory illness, has infected over 452,000 people in the Philippines.
The nationwide tally includes 419,000 people who have recovered from COVID-19 while 24,873 patients are still sick with the virus.