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COVID-19 vaccines from other countries donated with no strings attached —ex-TF exec Dizon

The COVID-19 vaccines from other countries were donated to the Philippine government with no strings attached, former National Task Force against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.

Dizon made the remark after Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Francis Tolentino asked if there was any correlation between the number of COVID-19 vaccines donated by a certain country and the number of COVID-19 vaccines that the Philippine government has procured from that country.

"I'm loooking at the proportionality of the amount of the volume donated  vis-a-vis the volume purchased. Baka 'yun ang strings attached. Bakit ka magdo-donate, kung di mo ire-require na yung donee ay bumili din sa inyo in the future?" Tolentino asked.

(Why donate if you can't ask the recipient to purchase vaccine from you in the future?)

Citing as an example, Tolentino mentioned some 4.075 million vaccines donated by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac, from which the Philippine government eventually procured around 45.640 million doses.

Another case that Tolentino mentioned was the donation of 1.432 million Pfizer vaccines and the Philippine government's procurement of over 40 million doses from the American pharmaceutical company.

In response, Dizon said the donor countries did not lay any conditions prior to donating COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines.

"Sa akin pong pagkakaalam, wala pong anumang kondisyon or strings attached ang pag-donate ng mga bansa tulad ng China at tulad ng ibang mga bansang tumulong sa atin na nag-donate. Australia, I think, nag-donate din po. Ang America nag-donate din po, at iba pang mga bansa sa Europa. Ito po 'yung mga bilateral na donations," Dizon said.

"Wala po akong nakitang corelation d'yan dahil nung panahon non...tayo ay practically, nagmamakaawa na po sa mga bansa at that time dahil wala pa po tayong mabili sa global market ng mga bakuna. Talagang nagkukumahog tayo at kumakatok sa mga pintuan ng mga partner-countries katulad ng China, Estados Unidos [at] mga iba't-ibang bansa," he added.

(As far as I know, there were no strings attached. I don't see any correlation because at that time, we were practically begging other countries like China, US, Australia and some European countries for vaccines because we could not purchase any in the global market.) 

'Unaccounted' vaccines

At the latter part of the hearing, the Department of Health was urged to reconcile the figures in its  COVID-19 vaccine inventory after Tolentino flagged millions of doses that are still unaccounted for.

Tolentino noticed the discrepancies in the figures provided by the DOH on the number of donated and procured COVID-19 vaccines, number of administered doses, total wastage, and the number of vaccines that are still with the national government.

So far, Tolentino said the government has around 251,382,600 donated and procured COVID-19 vaccines.

Of the said number, around 162 million doses were already administered including booster shots, over 44 million have expired, over 15 million are still with the national government, and 10 million are with the city health centers and local government units.

Tolentino said there are around 14 million doses that are "missing" but quick computation would show that there are around 20 million doses that are still unaccounted for.

According to Joyce Ducusin from the DOH, the variance may be attributed to the underreporting on the vaccines administered, vaccine wastage and even the updated inventory of the LGUs and the private sector.

"'Yun ang problema natin, 'yung [That is our problem, the] unreported, underreported. So how do we reconcile these figures?" Tolentino asked, noting that even the Commission on Audit has noticed some variance on the DOH's inventory.

"As you officially answer likewise of the COA report, I think, you should reconcile [the figures]," Tolentino said. "I don't want to pressure you on that because you might not... have the exact figures before you right now."

Ducusin said the DOH will submit the report on the ongoing physical inventory of the agency at the provincial, municipal and city level. —KBK, GMA Integrated News