The Department of Health (DOH) should start making purchase orders for second-generation COVID-19 vaccines that protect against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, former Health Secretary and Iloilo lawmaker Janet Garin said Monday.
Garin said that second-generation COVID-19 vaccines or bivalent vaccines were proven to be highly effective in preventing COVID-19 reinfection among vaccinated individuals based on clinical trials.
These vaccines will be available in highly developed countries by October.
"This second generation COVID-19 vaccine also prevents Omicron, and we need to make this available for our people. Based on clinical trials, there was a drastic reduction of breakthrough infection at 70% to 80%. This should reach the macro population by the end of the year," Garin said in a press conference.
"Kailangan habang hinihintay natin yan, nakikipagusap na tayo [sa pagbibilhan] kasi lahat ng bansa ay mangangailangan niyan. We should reserve, pre-order [these vaccines]. We should do that now. Walang bayad ang magpareserba. Kailangan mabilis ang galaw diyan because if Filipinos will not have access to that, we will have a hard time recovering economically," Garin added.
(While we wait for availability, we should be making reservations and pre-order these vaccines. There are no fees for pre-orders. We need to move fast.)
Garin said that the purchase of second-generation COVID-19 vaccines was necessary since there was still a high incidence of breakthrough COVID-19 infections among those who are already fully vaccinated and boosted with existing COVID-19 vaccines, even as they are mostly asymptomatic.
"The clinical trials on bivalent vaccines have been showing good progress. Since it will be available in highly developed countries by October, malayo na ang December na makarating ito sa Pilipinas (this should be available here in the Philippines by December)," she added.
Garin also said that private companies should be allowed to purchase bivalent COVID-19 vaccines at the same time the government makes the procurement for easier access to such vaccines and speed up the COVID-19 vaccination program in the process.
"We can get it via COVAX [global aid facility] or local procurement. But personally, we should allow our MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) to buy these at their expense for them to give out to their employees for free and make it tax deductible," Garin said.
While the proposed P5.2 trillion budget for 2023 had earmarked P20 billion for buying COVID-19 vaccines, Garin said this amount should be augmented with the help of the private sector since there were around 100 million Filipinos in need of the second-generation shot.
"P20 billion will not be sufficient kasi marami tayo (because we have a large population). This vaccine is not only for newborns so we need to explore the option of allowing businesses to buy on their own and make it tax deductible," Garin added.
Garin said that the COVID-19 vaccination program should be incentivized to increase the number of takers.
"In our district, we scheduled booster vaccinations with the Department of Social Welfare and Development. When COVID-19 cases were down, we decided to provide a transportation allowance for those who will get vaccinated. Punong puno iyong lugar [ng magpapabakuna]," Garin said.
(The place was filled.)
"There needs to be a constant face of the disease and we need to incentivize to entice them to get a vaccine," Garin added. — DVM, GMA News