Pre-order of COVID vaccines proposed

Aklan Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. suggested Thursday that the country pre-order COVID vaccines from  major pharmaceutical companies to avoid delays in purchase.

(Joe Raedle / Getty Images / AFP / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Haresco, during the House Committee on Health hearing, asked the Department of Health (DoH) regarding the possibility of placing vaccine pre-orders from major pharmaceutical companies outside of China and Russia.

"Most advanced countries like the US (United States) and the UK (United Kingdom) have already pre-ordered or put a downpayment on the six leading vaccines, among which (are from companies) Astrazeneca, Pfizer, and Modern," Haresco said during the virtual hearing.

"What is the policy of the DoH and the PITC (Philippine International Trading Corp.) in pre-ordering kasi (because) Mr. Chair, if the vaccines more or less pass through Phase 3 and 4 trials by November, baka maiwanan tayo sa pansitan (we would be left behind in procurement)," he said.

"Kahit mag-downpayment lang tayo ng singko sentimos, at least naka-(pila) tayo (If we could just make a misniscule down payment, at least we'd join the queue)," noted the House Committee on Appropriations vice chairman.

Haresco cited pronouncements from US President Donald Trump that America won't be sharing its advanced order of some 600 million doses of the vaccine. The solon said UK and Germany are also inclined to keep their supply of the antigen to themselves.

"The only countries willing to share are China and Russia.These vaccines from Russia and China, according to global press, are somewhat not in depth," he said.

Director Crispinita Valdez of the DoH Procurement Service said a host of other government agencies are involved in the procurement talks and coordination with the manufacturers of these vaccines.

"There is a committee tackling the vaccines it is headed by DoST (Department of Science and Technology). There is also a committee contacting the manufacturers. The DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) is also helping in the coordination," she told the Health panel.

"With regard pre-payment I'm not sure about that but there is an effort to actually coordinate with manufacturers. The committee is composed of DoH, DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), DoST, and other agencies," Valdez added.

Haresco said: "I fear the words 'coordinating' and 'committee,' kasi baka walang mangyari diyan (because nothing might come out of it)."

The House committee was discussing House Bill (HB) No.6995, or the "An Act Providing for the Stockpiling of Strategic and Critical Drugs and Medicines, Vaccines, Devices, and Materials for Public Health Emergencies, Creating for the Purpose the Health Procurement and Stockpiling Bureau under the DoH." Panel chairperson Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan penned the bill.

"Baka puwede nating mailagay sa bill na (Maybe we could have the bill say that) a competent agency will be responsible for the pre-order...para hindi magturuan ang DFA, DoST, at DoH (so as to avoid finger-pointing among the DFA, DoST, and DoH)," Haresco said.

Tan found some merit in Haresco's corcerns about a possible delay in the procurement of the much-anticipated COVID vaccine.

"We do have foreign-funded programs and projects for support or aid na sa PITC, PBSP nagla-lodge 'yung money (wherein the money was lodged with the PITC, PBSP). It took time. Kasi kung sa DoH 'yan, ang ginagawa nila ipinapasa nila dito sa third party na ito (if it's up the DoH, they would just pass it on to a third-party entity)," she said.

"'Yun 'yung current problem natin kung dumating 'yung vaccine natin in the future for COVID-19. Baka na-anticipate talaga natin na magka-problema tayo sa procurement (That's the current problem once the COVID-19 vaccine arrives. We've anticipated that we'll encounter problems with procurement)," added Tan.

The panel later decided to form a technical working group to further improve the provisions of HB No.6995.