Palace: Duterte has a COVID-19 vaccine czar who wishes to remain unnamed for now

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 26 2020 06:41 PM | Updated as of Oct 26 2020 09:24 PM

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(UPDATED) President Rodrigo Duterte has tapped an official who will facilitate the importation and distribution of a future vaccine against the novel coronavirus, Malacañang said Monday. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto earlier urged Malacañang to appoint a "vaccine czar"--a suggestion that was "well-taken," said Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque. 

"In fact, 2 months ago si Presidente may itinalagang vaccine czar," he told reporters. "Kaya nga lang po, iyong natalagang vaccine czar is hesitant when I asked him if I could remind the public kasi baka hindi na raw po naalala ni Presidente. He would like to wait for the President to make the announcement anew." 

(The President appointed a vaccine czar 2 months ago. However, the vaccine czar was hesitant when I asked if I could remind the public because the President may no longer remember it.)

Roque earlier said that while authorities have secured funds for the COVID-19 vaccine, its importation and storage set-up remains a "challenge."

The potential coronavirus vaccine should be kept in a cold storage facility, where they would be frozen at around -90 degrees Celsius. The Philippines has only one such facility at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa, he said.

The Department of Health welcomed the possibility of having a vaccine czar.

“Nakita po natin kung paano natin mas napabilis at mas nafacilitate ang ginagawa because there is a specific person overseeing and providing this guidance para sa mga strategies na meron tayo,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario said.

(We’ve seen how having a specific person overseeing our different response strategies has helped speed up and facilitate processes.)

Vergeire said even if the plan does not push though, the DOH will still able to properly implement the plans for COVID-19 immunization, especially since it has long been implementing vaccination programs.

She said the agency has also been preparing for the logistical requirements of the expected vaccines.  -- With a report from Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News