Persons who received the coronavirus vaccines will not be exempted from strict testing and quarantine protocols upon arrival in the Philippines.
The latest decision was reached by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) during a meeting Tuesday as vaccine distribution has started in some countries.
“Any individual arriving in the Philippines who may have received vaccination for COVID-19 in other countries/jurisdictions shall still be required to observe the mandatory testing and quarantine protocols,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Wednesday.
Local regulators have yet to give any emergency use approval to experimental coronavirus vaccines in the country although some public officials and military personnel have reportedly been inoculated.
So far, American drugmaker Pfizer is the only vaccine company that has a pending emergency use authorization (EUA) application before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A decision on the application may be released next week.
According to FDA director general Eric Domingo, United Kingdom-based AstraZeneca is expected to apply for EUA in the next few days.
The World Health Organization recently issued its first emergency use approval for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, which is reportedly 95 percent effective after two doses. The latest WHO actions sought to help countries without regulatory processes to gain access to the vaccine.
Some potential coronavirus vaccines have also been given emergency use approval in countries like the United States and United Kingdom. Another vaccine, developed by Sinopharm, became the first to be given general use approval by China.
The government has already allocated P72 billion for the acquisition and distribution of coronavirus vaccines under the 2021 national budget. Negotiations are underway to secure the country’s vaccine supply.
President Duterte previously said the Philippines seemed to be playing “second fiddle” to the vaccine acquisition since it is not a rich country.
Under the government’s vaccination plan, around 24.6 million Filipinos will be given priority in its free vaccination program to fight the new coronavirus disease. Health workers, senior citizens, poor citizens, and uniformed personnel will be prioritized in the immunization drive.
The focused areas for the COVID vaccination campaign are the National Capital Region, Region 4A (CALABARZON), Region 3 (Central Luzon), Davao City, Cebu City, Cagayan de Oro, Baguio City, Bacolod, Iloilo, Zamboanga City, Tacloban City, General Santos City, and other affected places.
Roque said the IATF called for the government’s intensified communication campaign on efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Covered by the order are the Department of Health, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Information and Communications Technology, the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, and the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
These agencies have been asked “to further strengthen their enforcement, monitoring, and communication efforts or impose additional specific measures to mitigate the possible holiday surge of COVID-19 cases,” Roque said.