Hospitals and rich people could secure their own coronavirus vaccine supply as long as these are approved by the country’s health authorities, President Duterte said on Monday.
In a taped address on state television, the President said those who can afford it do not have to wait for the government in the vaccine acquisition.
“We are not selling. We are buying for the people, libre (to be given free),” Duterte said about the government’s procurement of vaccines from various manufacturers abroad.
“Ngayon, kung kayong mga hospital, mga doktor o kung mayaman, gusto ninyong magbili ng inyo, go ahead. Do not wait for us. If you have the money, buy it. But dumaan ka lang sa FDA (Food and Drug Administration) (Now if the hospitals, the doctors or the rich want to buy supply, go ahead. Do not wait for us. If you have the money, buy it. But you must pass through the FDA),” he added.
Duterte said those procuring the vaccines must also get the approval of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, not vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.
“Hindi na dito kay Secretary Galvez. Huwag na sa kanya. Doon kayo sa FDA and finally doon sa Secretary of Health. Iyong pirma ng pinakamataas, importante ‘yan. Iyan ang totoo diyan. So make no mistake about it (Not Secretary Galvez. Go to FDA and finally to the Secretary of Health. The signature of the highest authority is important. That’s the truth so make no mistake about it),” he added.
Duterte made clear that the government has not imposed on any individual or group which vaccine should be purchased. He said “almost everybody” he knows are actually scrambling to buy vaccines developed by Pfizer.
“If you want to follow the experience of Norway, go ahead, nobody would stop you,” he said, alluding to the reported deaths among several elderly people in Norway after taking the Pfizer vaccines.
“But this I can tell you, we never prohibited anybody from buying from the government,” he added.
The government is under fire over its alleged preference for the coronavirus vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech despite its alleged high cost and low efficacy rate. Around 25 million doses of the Sinovac vaccines have already been secured by the government but the use of the supply will still be subject to the approval of the FDA. Authorities insisted that the vaccine dose cost less than P700 and has shown efficacy in global clinical trials.
Several local government units and the private sector have chosen to purchase 17 million additional vaccine doses from British drugmaker AstraZeneca. An initial 2.6 million doses have been secured in a deal sealed late last year. The supply deals were forged under a tripartite arrangement with the national government.
Some lawmakers have asked the government to let the local officials, as well as private companies, purchase their own supplies without interference to hasten the vaccination of Filipinos.
In a speech last week, the President said the national government would not meddle with the local government units that bought their own vaccine supply for their constituents. Duterte, however, made it clear that the vaccines must still pass the FDA’s scrutiny to check for their safety and efficacy.