IATF replaces DOH-led task force with COVID-19 vaccine cluster headed by Galvez

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 6) — The role of Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. as the country's COVID-19 vaccine czar is made clearer after the government abolished a newly-formed task force led by health officials and restructured the national task force to include a vaccine cluster headed by the retired general.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases or IATF announced on Friday that it has scrapped the COVID-19 Immunization Program Management Organizational Structure created on Oct. 26 to oversee the distribution of vaccines once they are available. The group was supposed to be led by the Department of Health.

The IATF issued Resolution No. 83 restructuring the National Task Force Against COVID-19, where Galvez is the chief implementer. It will now include a new vaccine cluster, separate from the COVID-19 response cluster.

Galvez's duties will range from price negotiation, overseeing all transactions, down to being the official spokesperson on vaccines. The IATF laid down his duties as follows:

- Stewardship – coordinate across various agencies, actors, and technical working groups on behalf of the DOH;

- Safety and efficacy – facilitate the early issuance of the Certificate of Product Registration with the Food and Drugs Administration;

- Cost-effectiveness – facilitate the timely conduct of Health Technology Assessment (HTA), as necessary;

- Price negotiation – activate a price negotiation board subject to HTA’s cost-effective price;

- Prioritization – facilitate consensus on prioritization of vaccine recipients;

- Delivery system – facilitate decision on whether to use private system, develop protocol on accessing vaccines and registration with primary care providers with health care provider networks (HCPNs), practice guidelines;

- Surveillance – set up system to monitor adverse events following immunization;

- Financing and co-payments – coordinate with the Department of Budget and Management and legislators, as may be necessary, on budget and co-payment ceilings;

- Procurement – facilitate procurement through various mechanisms allowed under existing laws, rules and regulations through bilateral, multilateral and other financial modalities;

- Supply and logistics movement – enter into agreement with 3rd party warehouse and logistics provider;

- Information systems – establish the information and technology infrastructure to capture supply chain information, system for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine;

- Risk communication and community engagement – oversee vaccine risk communication and social preparation and act as spokesperson for vaccine matters

Galvez's vaccination roadmap and implementation plan was also approved by the IATF.

The government's initial plan is to procure vaccines for 20 million Filipinos. The Department of Health said included in the priority list are medical frontliners, barangay health workers, other allied healthcare workers; personnel from the Departments of Education, Social Welfare, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Customs; and other government agencies exposed to the virus due to their line of work. Senior citizens, indigent population, and the vulnerable sector will also be the first ones to receive the vaccine once available in the country. The list will also prioritize police personnel and soldiers based on President Rodrigo Duterte's wishes