The Department of Health (DOH) said that the price will just be one of the criteria to be considered when it comes to purchasing a vaccine for COVID-19– once it becomes available.
DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire made the statement after President Duterte recently said that the Philippines will buy a less expensive vaccine. Duterte said that the vaccines being developed will have the same effect anyway.
Vergeire said that the vaccine’s safety and efficacy would be their first criteria when procuring it.
“Kapag bumibili tayo ng bakuna, una dyan ang issue ng safety, efficacy, and effectiveness ng bakuna [When we buy a vaccine, the first consideration would be the issue of the safety, efficacy, and effectiveness of the vaccine],” said Vergeire in an online forum on Wednesday.
Currently, the government is trying to map out and scope all vaccine manufacturers or developers, she said.
“Of course, gusto natin ang pinaka [Of course, we want the] best for our population. That’s why we are trying to negotiate with all these manufacturers,” she said.
“Hindi lang sa presyo [It’s not just about the price]. But of course, yung presyo [the price] would always matter,” she added.
Before procuring a vaccine, Vergeire said that it should undergo the strict regulatory process of the country.
It includes an assessment from the Health Technology Assessment Council and Vaccine Experts Panel of the Department of Science and Technology; it should be registered first with the Food and Drug Administration, and must be included in the National Drug Formulary.
“All vaccines that will come through the country that will be offered to our people will have to go through the regulatory process,” she said.
“Itong mga [These] different safeguards are to ensure that the government will be able to provide a safe and efficacious vaccine for all the population,” she added.
Vergeire said that it is also “very important” that the candidate vaccine should be “pre-qualified” with the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Ibig sabihin [This means], it has gone through all the processes, which are tedious for the WHO to pre-qualify this vaccine. Isa pang layer of safeguard para masabi natin na itong bakuna na ito ay binigyan ng clearance by international at reputable institutions abroad [This is another layer of safeguard for us to say that this vaccine has been given clearance by international and reputable institutions abroad],” she said.
Last August, the DOH announced that the government is in talks with 16 vaccine manufacturers worldwide.