Local government units (LGUs) who have already secured supplies of COVID-19 vaccines will still need to wait for the “go” signal of the national government before they can start rolling out their vaccines.
This was the clarification made by vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., as he dismissed criticisms that the national government is being left behind by LGUs in terms of securing vaccine supplies.
“We have different strategies in order to secure the access to the vaccines. First is through a bilateral arrangement between the national government and the manufacturers, second is through diplomatic relations, and third is through a tripartite agreement. We relayed to President [Duterte] the desire of the LGUs to help the national government. He approved it last December . We want to clarify some misconceptions. We are allowing the LGUs [to purchase vaccines] through a tripartite agreement,” Galvez said in a “Laging Handa” press briefing.
This week, several Metro Manila cities and other provinces have already inked agreements with various vaccine manufacturers, among of which are United Kingdom’s AstraZeneca and United States’ Pfizer, for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
Galvez, who is also the chief implementer of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, explained that these were all tripartite agreements between the national government, the LGUs, and the vaccine manufacturers.
The vaccine czar said the LGUs were the ones who first communicated with the LGUs through a bilateral agreement.
After the initial talks, a tripartite supply agreement was again signed by the national government, LGU, and the vaccine manufacturer.
“We asked the manufaturers if we can distribute the vaccines to LGUs. The vaccine makers only have authorization for emergency use (EUA) so we cannot commercialize their vaccines for public use,” he said.
“They [manufacturers] only authorized their agents to communicate with them [LGUs] after [Duterte’s] approval. The government is still the one managing the vaccination so we will be able to have a close control and adverse effect monitoring of the people,” he added.
Galvez said that the LGUs will be responsible for the preparation of the master list of those who will be vaccinated, and the list of the vaccine centers.
They will also work with the Department of Health in administering the vaccine to the people once the vaccination program begins.
Meanwhile, the national government will supply other deliverables such as the syringes, cottons, and the cold chain storage.
Galvez also assured that the vaccines that will be secured by the national government will be distributed equally to all LGUs.
The national government has already secured at least 148 million doses from seven vaccine firms namely Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Novavax (Serum Institute of India), Janssen (US-Belgium’s Johnson and Johnson’s), Moderna (US), Sinovac (China), and Gamaleya (Russia).
He said every LGU will be given enough doses to vaccinate at least 70 percent of its local population to attain a herd immunity.
“If the allocation is 70 percent and the LGU has already procured doses for 30 percent of its population, the remaining 40 percent will be provided by the national government,” Galvez said.
“The LGUs which won’t be able to secure supply due to lack of funds, the national government will give them the whole 70 percent,” he said.
There will be three main vaccination hubs in the country: Manila in Luzon, Cebu in Visayas, and Davao City in Mindanao.
Galvez said that the hubs were chosen because these are where the cold chain storage facilities are found. the central hub will be in Manila where about 500,000 to one million doses of vaccines can be stored.
A rehearsal of the vaccination program will be held by the national government next week, Galvez bared.
He said the NTF will inspect airports for a time-in motion and walk through of the assimilation of the arrival of the first supply of vaccines.
They will also inspect some warehouses at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicines (RITM) and Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila where the vaccines will be stored.
The NTF will also meet with service providers, including Unilab, to ensure their preparedness for the cold chain storage of the vaccines, as well as in some vaccination centers in different cities and provinces.
“By the end of January, we will make sure that we are fully preparedfor the arrival of the first batch of 50,000 doses,” Galvez said, referring to the first batch of vaccines from China’s Sinovac which is set to arrive in February.