Duterte wants no ‘monkey wrench’ thrown to disrupt PH vaccination program

Published February 16, 2021, 12:16 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The government is trying its “best” to prepare for the swift and orderly coronavirus vaccination and ensure there won’t be any “monkey wrench” to disrupt the program in the country.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (SIMEON CELI/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

President Duterte made this commitment during his discussion with top government officials about the procurement and distribution of coronavirus vaccines in Davao City Monday, Feb. 15.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. gave an update on the country’s negotiations for the supply of coronavirus vaccines during the meeting with the President.

The country’s initial supply of vaccines is expected to arrive this month.

“We are trying our best. Narinig naman ninyo si Secretary Galvez that we are in the process of really working towards the realization of our vaccine program,” the President said in a televised address.

The President received an assurance from Galvez about the smooth flow of the arrival of the vaccines to their transport to cold storage facilities. 

Galvez reported to the President about results of the government’s recent dry run once the vaccines arrive in the country, including the customs clearance of the supply. Bringing the COVID-19 vaccines immediately to the designated cold storage facility is considered vital to ensure their potency and avoid wastage.

“So as far as we are concerned, tayo dito sa gobyerno, itong flow ng how the vaccines would be imported and doon finally sa storage, wala ng monkey wrench?” the President asked Galvez.

The retired military general replied: “Wala na po, sir. Medyo ano po tayo sir okay po tayo sir. Lalo na po ‘yong from ano from the airport going to the storage. Nakuha po natin ‘yong ano ‘yong timing na napakababa po (Nothing sir. We’re okay sir especially from the airport going to the storage. We completed it in a short time),” he said. 

Galvez said the customs bureau has complied with the President’s directive to ensure the smooth release of the vaccine supply once they arrive in the country. 

During the simulation, he said the customs personnel quickly inspected and counted the mock boxes before the supplies were loaded into the refrigerated vans.

“Wala pong time na makokonsumo doon sa Customs clearing, so zero minutes po sila (There was no time consumed in the customs cleaning. They had zero minutes),” he said. “Maganda po lahat ang ano ang execution (The execution was good),” Galvez said.

The President also reminded Galvez to make sure there won’t be any problem in the vaccine arrival and transport to the cold storage facility.

To the customs personnel, Duterte said there was “no need to tarry a minute longer in releasing the cargoes” of vaccine. “It is very important that they should be stored immediately upon ma-deplane ‘yong mga bakuna,” he said.

Galvez said they intend to conduct another rehearsal of the vaccine storage to address any issue. “But all of the ano, all of the process ng simulation from the airport going to the warehouse, okay na po siya,” he told the President.

When Duterte asked about any problem related to the vaccine that must still be addressed, Galvez admitted that there was “limited logistics” and that they intend to tap third-party storage providers. 

“Nag-usap na po kami ni Secretary Duque and then may ginagawa na po kami ng emergency procurement (I talked with Secretary Duque and we’re doing an emergency procurement),” he said.

When Duterte asked if the government can’t start vaccinating people yet, Galvez said they expect more or less 1 million to 3 million doses of coronavirus vaccines are expected by March. Vaccine supplies from the COVAX facility as well as Sinovac are also expected to be delivered this month, he added.

The government aims to negotiate for a supply of 178 million doses of coronavirus vaccines good enough to inoculate more than 92 people. The country’s additional supplies are being negotiated in anticipation of the delivery shortfalls amid high demand for the vaccines. 

Once the vaccines start arriving in the country, the government intends to give free inoculations initially to health frontliners, senior citizens, poor and vulnerable citizens, and essential workers and uniformed personnel.