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Roque: Private firms allowed to buy COVID-19 vaccines for their employees under tripartite deal with gov’t

All private companies, including those selling tobacco, infant milk formula, soda and liquor, are allowed to procure  COVID-19 vaccines for their employees provided they do it under a tripartite deal with the national government and the vaccine manufacturer, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Monday.

Roque made the announcement after a number of lawmakers raised concerns over the supposed plan of the Health Department and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 to prevent such private companies involved in manufacturing products “in conflict with public health” from procuring COVID-19 vaccines for their employees.

The lawmakers, led by House Ways and Means panel chairperson Joey Salceda, argued that such plan is detrimental, if not hamper the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

“Isa pa pong paglilinaw, puwede na pong bumili ng bakuna ang lahat ng pribadong  kumpanya, kasama ang cigarette companies,” Roque said.

(To be clear, all private companies are allowed to buy COVID-19 vaccines, including cigarette companies.)

“This is under the amended IRR of the COVID-19 Vaccination Law,” he added.

Roque, however, stressed that such deals by private entities should be done in a tripartite agreement.

“Hindi po puwedeng mawala ang tripartite agreement [kasama ang gobyerno],” he added.

(The tripartite agreement with the national government is indispensable)

Prior to Roque’s announcement, WHO country representative for the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that such procurement restriction is not based on a whim.

“There are limitations in providing opportunities to these industries to provide for health-related services or using health-related services for marketing or advocacy. It is in this light that the DOH does not encourage those industries to be involved in the distribution of vaccines,” Abeyasinghe said during the Laging Handa briefing.

The WHO official, however, clarified that policies should not deny vaccines to anybody.

“Of course, their workers [of abovementioned companies] will be entitled to a COVID-19 vaccine under the national vaccination rollout. We don’t believe they will be left behind as the vaccine rollout happends,” Abeyasinghe added. — RSJ, GMA News