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Recto: Late procurement of COVID-19 vaccines may be 'blessing in disguise'

The delay in the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines could be a "blessing in disguise" as it would allow the Philippine government to choose the best for Filipinos based on the data and experiences of other countries, a senator said Sunday.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto made the remark as the country prepares for the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines it ordered from various manufacturers around the world.

In a Dobol B sa News TV interview, Recto pointed out that around 60 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have already been administered worldwide, which means that there is more data available from other countries regarding the vaccines' efficacy.

"Medyo nahuli na tayo kasi ang Singapore, halimbawa, nag-umpisa niyan June, July pa," he said.

"This could be a blessing in disguise. Now there is more data, nakita na natin ang rollout," he added.

Using these data, Recto said the government will be able to determine the most effective and safest vaccine for Filipinos.

"Tingnan nang mabuti ng DOH (Department of Health) at HTAC (Health Technology Assessment Council) yung nangyayari sa buong mundo at ikalat lahat yung data tungkol diyan so that we can make the wise decision on which is the safest and the most effective vaccine na angkop sa ating mga Pilipino," he pointed out.

As planned, the Philippines will procure around 148 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine this year to inoculate a target of 50 to 70 million Filipinos, an estimated 50,000 of whom are expected to be vaccinated next month. 

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said the vaccine manufactured by American corporation Pfizer could be the first to be used in the country as the COVAX Facility will have an early rollout of the said brand.

Recto maintained that health workers, who are the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines once available in the country, should get the most effective one as this could help boost vaccine confidence of the public.

"Para magkaroon ng effective rollout, dapat uunahin natin ang mga health worker. So dapat ibigay sa kanila yung pinaka-effective, pinaka-safe na bakuna," he said.

"At kapag nakita ng ating taumbayan na yung ating mga nurse, doktor na itong bakunang ito ang ginagamit nila, mas maniniwala, magkakaroon ng kumpiyansa ang taumbayan na magpabakuna rin," he added.

The Philippine government has set aside P82.5 billion for its massive COVID-19 vaccination program, of which P2.5 billion will come from the DOH's budget allocation for 2021, while the P10 billion will be sourced from the anti-coronavirus vaccination program of the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act.

Meanwhile, the remaining P70 billion will be sourced from loans provided by multilateral lenders, the Philippines’ bilateral partners, and/or the domestic market. —LBG, GMA News