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Vergeire: Lack of law prevents PH from procuring bivalent COVID-19 vaccines

The Department of Health cannot buy bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, which targets Omicron COVID-19 and its subvariants, because there is no law authorizing such, DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said Thursday.

Vergeire made the disclosure during the House appropriations panel oversight meeting on the budgetary performance of the DOH.

She said the country is counting on donated bivalent COVID-19 vaccines due to arrive by the end of the month prompting queries from House appropriations panel senior vice chairperson Stella Quimbo.

“Why is that we are not very active in procuring bivalent COVID-19 vaccines and we are depending on donation. As it is, our healthcare workers remain vulnerable because they are not yet protected,”  Quimbo said.

Vergeire responded by saying: “We just like to make mention and emphasize that we did all things possible. Unfortunately, procurement is a non-option for us right now because of the existing laws in the country.”

“We don’t have a basis to do procurement as stated in provisions required by manufacturers for us to be able to enter agreements with them. We opted for donations at this point because we do not have a policy for us to go through the procurement process. The state of calamity was lifted, and because of that, our COVID-19 Vaccination law is already not valid,” she added.

The country's state of calamity ended last December 31, 2022. President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. did not issue an order extending the state of calamity despite DOH's proposal.

Vergeire then said that allowing procurement of such vaccines outside of a state of calamity declaration is provided under the proposed bill establishing Center for Disease Control (CDC), a measure already certified urgent by the President.

The CDC bill has been approved on final reading in the House of Representatives, but the measure is still languishing in the Senate.

Vergeire said the government has a budget to buy bivalent COVID-19 vaccines.

“We have a budget from our [COVID-19] loans, that is why we did not include it in the General Appropriations Act proposal,” she said.

Quimbo, for her part, assured aid in terms of passing legislation for the procurement of bivalent COVID-19 vaccines.

“If there is a need to pass the law, the Congress is open to it, we will find ways to help you,” she added.—AOL, GMA Integrated News