Daily Tribune (Philippines)

Duterte grumpy with vax delay

I will be direct with you: The President has spoken. He is growing impatient.

- BY MJ BLANCAFLOR @tribunephl_MJB

Even President Rodrigo Duterte is getting impatient with the delays in the arrival of Covid-19 vaccines this month, Malacañang said Friday, as regulatory and logistical issues slowed down the Philippine­s’ vaccinatio­n program.

The President is hoping to speed up the processes needed for the vaccine delivery, his spokespers­on Secretary Harry Roque said as the country trailed some of its regional neighbors that have launched their inoculatio­n drives.

“I will be direct with you: The President has spoken. He is growing impatient,” Roque said in an interview over state-run PTV-4.

The Palace official then said he believes Duterte’s exasperati­on would hasten the process.

“The vaccines need to arrive. Now that the President has spoken, everyone will move faster,” he said.

The delivery of the Philippine­s’ initial Covid-19 vaccine doses has been delayed due to different issues faced by government officials and manufactur­ers, such as the lack of indemnific­ation mechanism in the country.

Vaccine makers require an indemnific­ation agreement to ensure that the government would shoulder the treatment costs of vaccine recipients who would experience severe side effects, thus protecting themselves from potential liability claims.

The Palace has previously announced that 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines would be shipped to the country through the Covax Facility by mid-February, but it was pushed back to a later date due to the hiccups on the required submission of the indemnific­ation deal.

The Philippine­s has submitted the required indemnific­ation accord to Pfizer-BioNTech this week, and is now waiting for documents from the said manufactur­er to finalize the Covax supply delivery of Covid-19 vaccines to the country.

Duterte has also certified as urgent the proposed measures seeking indemnity fund for people who might suffer from severe adverse effects of Covid-19 vaccines.

Meanwhile, 600,000 donated doses of Sinovac Biotech Ltd. vaccines from China are slated to arrive in February, but it cannot be delivered yet since it has not received an emergency use authorizat­ion (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administra­tion (FDA).

The FDA earlier said it is waiting for Sinovac to complete its requiremen­ts before vaccine experts could decide on their EUA applicatio­n.

The regulatory board has so far authorized the Covid-19 vaccines manufactur­ed by Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZenec­a for emergency use.

Duterte’s administra­tion is banking on his immunizati­on program to spur the economic growth of the Philippine­s that saw last year a 9.5 percent contractio­n, the worst in Southeast Asia.

The vaccines need to arrive. Now that the President has spoken, everyone will move faster.

The government has earmarked P82 billion for Covid-19 vaccine procuremen­t, sourced from the Asian Developmen­t Bank, World Bank, and the Asian Infrastruc­ture Investment Bank.

It is aiming to secure a total of 148 million vaccine doses to inoculate at least 70 million Filipinos this year.

The neighborin­g countries of the Philippine­s in Southeast Asia, such as Singapore, Indonesia, and Myanmar, have started to immunize their people against the coronaviru­s.

The Philippine­s has so far recorded over 555,000 coronaviru­s infections and 11,600 fatalities.

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