To buy or not to buy own vaccines? LGUs told COVID-19 vaccine purchase not yet allowed

January 4, 2021 - 6:27 PM
A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. (Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

The Department of Health on Monday said that it is not yet allowing the LGUs to procure their own COVID-19 vaccines after some mayors unveiled plans to purchase vaccines for their constituents.

“We have to remember, the national immunization program rests on the mandate of the Department of Health, so hopefully the local governments will work with us… Try to work with us so that we can have more effective vaccine deployment implementation,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a press briefing.

She added that LGUs can only purchase the vaccines on their own if it has been given the certificate of product registration for regular marketing and distribution by the Food and Drug Administration.

Vergeire added that since the COVID-19 vaccines are still in the development phase, which is the clinical trials, a certificate of product registration would not be awarded yet.

Work with national gov’t for vaccine roll-out

Currently, the FDA is only issuing an emergency use authorization for vaccines.

Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, also the director general of FDA explained that an EUA is a “risk-based” process to evaluate the vaccines that are not yet registered could be used during the pandemic.

“So by saying that, ang local governments ay hinihikayat ng national government to work with us because we can pool the funds and then the national government can procure and we can have an effective distribution system,” Vergeire added.

This, after a number of local chief executives have mentioned allocating funds to procure COVID-19 vaccines for their constituents in the cities of Makati, Valenzuela, Pasig and Navotas.

Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron also mentioned setting aside funds for the vaccines.

Meanwhile, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno on January 1 announced that the city has opened slots for pre-registration for its planned free COVID-19 vaccination in the nation’s capital.

The pre-registration requires Manila residents to disclose their potential COVID-19 exposure history, if they have experienced certain symptoms and their medical history, among others.

What the nat’l gov’t said previously

Following the DOH’s remarks on some LGUs’ vaccination deal plans, critics noted how Duterte has previously urged mayors “to do more” in terms of pandemic response last year.

“I remember them saying ‘umasa kayo sa LGU’ at ngayong may ginagawang askyon ang LGU, ayaw niyo? Make it sense, make it sense! Takot masapawan kasi (ang) bagal umaskyon ng national government,” a Twitter user commented.

Duterte last year said that mayors have to show more initiative in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic besetting the country, particularly in terms of enforcing minimum health standards in different localities.

“The mayors have to do more. They have to do more. They have to take care…” he was quoted as saying in a national address.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 policy chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., also the vaccine czar, said that the Palace has considered letting the LGUs procure their own vaccines last month.

“Ina-analyze po namin yung kanilang recommendation… I reported this to the President na kung pwede mai-allow, especially ‘yung mga priority cities, na magkaroon ng access.” Galvez said in an interview on CNN Philippines.

“So ang magiging arrangement natin ay separate ang kanilang quota doon sa kukunin na quota ng government,” he added.

A few days after, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya of the interior and local government department said that the LGUs can purchase vaccines “approved” by the FDA “as augmentation.”

“Kumabaga kung gusto pa nila ng dagdag na constituents nila na hindi priority, puwede po silang bumili at i-vaccinate ang kanilang constituents,” he said before.

In December, the Palace said that it welcomes the LGUs’ plans to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for their constituents but added that the national government has allocated funds for 60 to 70 percent of the population.

“We appreciate po and welcome the initiatives of LGUs na maglaan ng sariling pondo para makabili ng bakuna. Ang problema lang po talaga ay iyong availability, kasi iyong lahat ng mga bansa nag-uunahan makakuha, so hindi mo maaalis sa manufacturers na magkakaroon sila ng parang quota,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

“Hindi ko rin po dini-discourage ang mga local government units na maglaan ng sariling pondo dahil sinasabi ko nga, mayroon pa namang ibang mga bakuna na pupuwede nating bilhin at kung handa silang gumastos, siguro naman po ang national government will order for them para mas marami tayong bakunang makuha, over and beyond our quotas,” he added.