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

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 29) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. to approve documents that will allow the private sector to import anti-coronavirus vaccines.

“I ordered Secretary Galvez to sign any and all documents that would allow the private sector to import at will. Maski magkano, ilan ang gusto nilang ipasok, okay sa akin (No matter how much or how many they want to import, it’s okay with me),” said Duterte in his regular Monday night address.

Duterte pointed out that many private companies are seeking to procure their own supply of vaccines for their employees for the continued operation of their businesses.

“You know the reason why? So the economy can be opened,” he said.

Private firms are allowed to purchase COVID-19 vaccines through a tripartite agreement with the government and the vaccine manufacturer. Authorities point out that the government needs to cover the indemnity for any possible side effects of the vaccines, which haven’t been cleared for commercial use yet.

READ: Galvez: AstraZeneca, not govt., requires private sector to donate 50% of purchased COVID-19 vaccines

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country’s largest business organization, earlier asked the government to allow the private sector to import and buy their own vaccines directly from accredited sources amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion said that the members of the private sector have agreed to fund their own rollout as COVID-19 vaccines start to arrive in the country. He added that this is to ensure economic recovery by the end of the year.

Duterte signed last February the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which allocated P500 million indemnification fund to compensate the vaccinees who may experience serious side effects or die after inoculation.

But the President earlier said that the national government cannot be held responsible for any side effects that may occur from the vaccines procured by the private sector.

The government has started its vaccination program with healthcare workers last March 1. Meanwhile, some local government units have are started inoculating senior citizens and those with certain comorbidities.

Galvez said that the national government is targeting a steady supply of COVID-19 vaccines within the year. He reiterated that the goal is to achieve herd immunity with 70 million Filipinos vaccinated this 2021.