FORT BONIFACIO, TAGUIG CITY (11 NOVEMBER 2020)— The government has already allocated funds for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines once they become available, according to vaccine czar and National Action Plan (NAP) against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito G. Galvez, Jr.

“Alam natin sa Bayanihan 2, we have allocation for testing and procurement of vaccines. Meron tayong 10 billion. And then mayroon tayong standby fund. ADB (Asian Development Bank) and World Bank assured us that they will also help us for pooled or self-sufficiency financing,” Galvez said during a virtual presser here on Wednesday.

He named the countries that the Philippines is currently negotiating with, and are now being carefully considered by the government as potential suppliers.

“We have good diplomatic relations with China, Russia, US, Japan, South Korea, UK, Singapore, and Israel,” Galvez said.

Strategic action

Following President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval of the Philippine National Vaccine Roadmap (PNVR), efforts are now underway to implement the first stage, which is the scientific evaluation and selection of vaccines, one of the most crucial components of the roadmap.

The PNVR is anchored on the goal of the Duterte Administration to provide a safe, effective and affordable vaccine for all Filipinos. With the approval of the roadmap, the government aims to accelerate all stages of the process by using science as its main benchmark.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, explained the rigorous selection process COVID-19 vaccines need to go through to ensure both their safety and efficacy.

“Lahat po ng papasok na mga teknolohiya sa ating bansa, specifically vaccines, bago po natin ibigay sa ating population, we need to ensure that it is safe, it is efficacious. It is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who does the evaluation of these products,” Vergeire said.

“Naglagay [rin] tayo ng additional layer para mas sigurado tayo — the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) ng Pilipinas ay nagbuo ng Vaccine Experts Panel [and] they have this layer of evaluating all of these documents that will be requested from each manufacturer, ‘pag pumasok dito. This is a step that we have included prior to the evaluation of FDA,” she added.

Vergeire said the Philippines is already participating in the World Health Organization (WHO) solidarity vaccine trial, as part of the government’s preparations under the PNVR.

Equitable access

According to Galvez, around 25 million Filipinos will be prioritized during the first round of vaccinations, which is anticipated to be conducted by the second or third quarter of 2021.

He said this will include the poorest of the poor, frontliners, as well as the security sector.

With regards to access to the vaccine, Galvez said mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that Filipinos will not be left behind in the global race to acquire the vaccine.

“Multi-approach po ang ginagawa natin. Sa COVAX, meron na po tayong tinatawag na 20% guaranteed access so meaning more or less 20 to 25 million Filipinos can access equitably sa COVAX,” Galvez said.

COVAX is a global initiative which brings together “governments, global health organisations, manufacturers, scientists, private sector, civil society and philanthropy, with the aim of providing innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, treatments and vaccines.”

COVAX is one of the three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, launched in April by the WHO, the European Commission (EC), and France.

“Ngayon gumagawa tayo ng bilateral, tripartite and multi-lateral engagements so that we can increase our capacity and our access to at least 25-30 million of our population will be vaccinated each year,” he added. ###