AMID BUSINESS GROUPS’ CLAMOR: Direct vaccine sourcing not allowed

    Donated vaccines. Gov't reiterated that private companies cannot procure vaccines on their own. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

    The country’s finance chief has cited two reasons why the private sector is not allowed to directly import new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines in response to the clamor of business groups to source their own minus the government.

    Carlos Dominguez, Department of Finance (DOF) secretary, told reporters in a text message the requirement by pharmaceutical companies of indemnity necessitates government involvement in the vaccine purchases of the private sector.

    Dominguez said the second reasons is that Republic Act 11525, also known as An Act establishing the COVID-19 Vaccination Program, states private entities may procure COVID-19 vaccines only in cooperation with the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 through a multiparty agreement, which shall include DOH and the relevant supplier of the vaccine.

    The calls made by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. to allow the private sector to directly import COVID-19 vaccines comes amid the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases, with daily new cases hitting a record-high last Saturday at 7,999.

    Asked about the possibility of returning to stricter lockdown levels as the cases rise, Dominguez said the DOF “will examine all available facts and weigh the knowledgeable opinions from domestic and international sources, to arrive at a recommendation for action.”

    “The DOF has always advocated a policy of conserving all our resources in anticipation of a recurrence of the contagion, in order for the country to be able to make the appropriate response at any given time,” Dominguez said.

    Joey Concepcion, presidential adviser for entrepreneurship, who is leading the `A Dose of Hope campaign, has successfully negotiated for the acquisition by businesses of vaccines through a tripartite agreement with government and the pharmaceutical companies.

    A separate tripartite agreement was entered into by International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) through ICTSI Foundation for the acquisition of 20 million doses of Moderna vaccines.

    The `A Dose of Hope’ campaign secured for the country 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines, half of which would be donated to the government healthcare workers.

    The first batch of the vaccines is set to arrive by May to June. Zuellig has been tapped as the logistics and cold chain facilities provider.

    Concepcion said on top of the donation, the private sector is willing to fund and pay for the logistics cost of the vaccine rollout. – With Ruelle Castro