Duterte allows private sector to import COVID-19 vaccines ‘at will’

Published March 30, 2021, 12:26 AM

by Argyll Cyrus Geducos

President Duterte has allowed the private sector to bring in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines in the country “at will,” as he recognized the very limited number of shots that the government is able to import.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

Duterte made the statement after he welcomed the arrival of one million CoronaVac doses on Monday, first tranche of government-procured vaccines.

“I have ordered [Vaccine Czar] Secretary [Carlito] Galvez to sign any and all documents that would allow the private sector to import at will, maski ilan ang gusto nilang ipasok, OK sa akin (whatever amount they want to bring in, it’s fine with me),” he said in his weekly public address on Monday.

“Maski saan sila makakuha because ang ating gobyerno, eh binigyan lang din. Ang binigay sa atin limitado (It doesn’t matter where they will get the vaccine because the government is only getting donations anyway and we’re only getting a limited number of vaccines),” he added.

According to the President, the private sector wants to purchase vaccines for their employees because they want “the economy opened.”

The private sector has asked the government to allow it to directly procure COVID-19 vaccines from pharmaceutical firms without restrictions or conditions. 

Malacañang had explained that companies have always been allowed to buy vaccines but it had to be done through a tripartite agreement with the national government so it can take responsibility for side effects.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that if private firms will insist on buying vaccines directly from pharmaceutical firms, then they should not blame the government if anything goes wrong.

“Kung talagang gusto nilang diretso na walang gobyerno, eh kung pupwede hayaan mo sila pero pag merong side effects ‘yan, mananagot ang private, hindi ang gobyerno (If private companies will insist to deal with vaccine makers without the government, then let them. But if there will be side effects, they should be responsible, not the government),” he told Teleradyo.

According to Roque, no pharmaceutical firm will sell vaccines without the intervention of the government because their vaccines are only authorized for emergency use and not commercial use.

The COVID-19 Program Vaccination states that manufacturers will not be held liable for side effects as long as there is no willful neglect or gross negligence on their part.