The Philippines did not miss an opportunity to secure doses of COVID-19 vaccines, National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said Saturday.
“No ‘bus’ was missed or no ‘ball’ was dropped because we are focused on our main goal, and that is, to secure an equitable share of the vaccines,” Galvez said in a statement.
The vaccine czar went on the explain that “in reality, negotiations on many occasions will reach stalemate and gridlock when legal challenges, public interest and safety are at stake.”
Galvez made the statement amid the issue that the country missed out on an opportunity to procure 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine because someone “dropped the ball” —allegedly Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
In his defense, Duque said if ever he was at fault, it was due to “err on the side of caution,” saying that he wanted to know more about Pfizer’s vaccine but the absence of a confidentiality disclosure agreement (CDA) kept the pharmaceutical from disclosing data.
The Health chief also said the required CDA by Pfizer was originally intended to be signed by the Office of the President (OP) and not the Department of Health.
Duque said DOH cannot sign the CDA on behalf of the whole government which was why the Department of Science and Technology and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. had signed the CDA separately.
With this, Galvez said the CDA is “just one of the many phases of the negotiations.”
At a briefing on Saturday morning,Galvez said the government is eyeing to secure a deal with Pfizer within December or the first week of January this year.
"Inaaantay na lang po 'yung validation tsaka 'yung confirmation from the Pfizer headquarters. Once na nagkaroon ng talagang kung ilan 'yung i-a-allocate sa atin ay magkakaroon na po ng pirmahan. Hopefully ang earliest is within this month, or just in case madelay 'yung allocation, it will be first week of January," Galvez said.
"Natutuwa kami sa Pfizer kasi hindi po kami iniwan," he added.
The vaccine czar said the government assures that the country is on track in the implementation of Philippine National Vaccine Roadmap.
He admitted that there have been some delays in the negotiations “but still we were able to make up.”
“We must learn to face certain realities and that is, we are struggling to get a fair share of the vaccines in the global market given that 80% of the vaccines have already been procured by the manufacturers' country of origin and countries now in the height of the ‘second wave’,” Galvez said.
“The Philippine government is determined to acquire safe and effective vaccines for all Filipinos, regardless of brand or their country of origin,” he said.
The vaccine czar said authorities carefully study and evaluate all documents relative to the procurement and acquisition of candidate vaccines, especially when the public’s health and safety are at stake.
“The ball is being passed not because there are those who are abrogating responsibility but because we want it to reach the goal — to close deals and obtain vaccines for all Filipinos so that we can implement our national vaccination program atthe most appropriate time,” Galvez said.
The vaccine czar described the issue that "someone dropped the ball" an
“unfounded accusation” and “unnecessary noise,” that may derail the goal of securing safe and effective vaccines.
“As we take responsibility for our actions, we cannot afford to engage in finger-pointing or buck-passing at this crucial stage,” he said.
“These kinds of discussions are unproductive and will only distract us from carrying out our crucial mandate,” he said.
“Since we started our negotiations with the pharmaceutical companies and the embassies of their respective governments, all the decisions and actions we have made are in accordance with the careful process of scientific evaluation and selection of the Vaccine Expert Panel,” Galvez noted.
The vaccine czar noted that the process of vaccine selection is based on safety, efficacy, cost-effectiveness, the track record of the vaccine maker, complexity of handling and logistics, after-sales and life cycle services, production capacity and early delivery, and long-term commitment.
“The Philippine National Vaccine Roadmap also created a Task Group for Adverse Effect to monitor that these vaccines are safe. This is to ensure that everything that we do will redound to public health safety and the lasting benefit of the Filipino people,” he said.
Galvez said the measure is part of the government's due diligence coming from the controversies that the country has suffered from the Dengvaxia issue, “which caused unnecessary fear and stigma among the public.”
“[W]e call on the entire Filipino people to unite and move forward. Let us focus all our energy to build back a better and stronger Philippines,” he said. —With a report from Jamil Santos/KG, GMA News