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Duterte: High demand for COVID-19 vaccines delayed Philippines’ procurement

The law of supply and demand is to blame for the delay in the Philippines’ procurement of vaccines against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), President Rodrigo Duterte claimed Wednesday as he defended the government.

“Bakit natagalan? Alam mo, ang medisina ngayon, pinaka-[in] demand so there is always the economics. Ang tawag, supply and demand,” he said in his weekly national address.

Duterte said manufacturers prioritize the “highest bidder” in their rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Highest bidder ‘yan. So ‘yung may pera, mauuna talaga mabigyan. Pera pera talaga itong buhay na to e, maski sabihin mong COVID,” he said.

“Bakit natagalan? Why? [...] Kasi ‘yung pera. Ngayong may pera na tayo, ang problema, ‘yung supply, binili lahat ng mayayaman na bayan. Agawan ito ngayon.”

The Philippines has so far signed a term sheet for 30 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Novavax and the Serum Institute of India; and secured 25 million doses of China’s Sinovac. The private sector has also secured 2.6 million doses of the vaccine from British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca, with plans to increase the order by another 3.5 million doses.

In addition, several local governments have signed tripartite deals with the national government and AstraZeneca, placing their own orders for the vaccine.

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government will also procure an additional 20 million doses from AstraZeneca, while there were “positive” developments in talks with other manufacturers Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Russia’s Gamaleya.  

Galvez earlier said vaccinations would begin in February.

In December last year, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. alleged that the Philippines would have had a supply of COVID-19 vaccines by now if Health Secretary Francisco Duque III had not “dropped the ball” in negotiations with American firm Pfizer. 

Duque later countered that there was “no such thing,” stressing that talks with Pfizer at the time were still underway. 

The Philippines has recorded 492,700 infections as of Wednesday afternoon.

The DOH also announced that the new coronavirus variant initially discovered in the United Kingdom has now been detected in the Philippines. — BM, GMA News