Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. last week apologized for the hold-up of the government’s vaccination program, as Malacañang Palace expressed displeasure at its delay.
According to his spokesman Harry Roque, President Duterte himself is getting “impatient.”
“I will be honest with you. The President has spoken,” said Roque on government television. “The vaccines have to arrive. And maybe since the President has made these statements, everybody would move faster.”
At a Coordinated Operations to Defeat Epidemic (CODE) team meeting, Galvez asked for “more patience” and added that he was aware that mayors were ready to start vaccinations for their constituents.
“I apologize, because we don’t control the supply chain for our vaccines,” he said. “Sometimes I feel embarrassed because as I said, only the vaccines are missing. Where are the vaccines? That is the question.”
However, Galvez noted that the Philippines is not alone in the struggle to secure and deliver their supply of vaccines. He said: “We see the geopolitics of vaccination.”
Previously, indemnification agreements—particularly who would pay for claims for damages in the event of adverse effects—remained unresolved, delaying 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.
Earlier last week, Sen. Risa Hontiveros urged government officials to commit to a vaccination plan time frame. “It seems that they are just shooting darts at the calendar. I hope they start taking accountability for their announcements. This hemming and hawing of the NTF (National Task Force Against Covid19) does not add to public confidence,” she said. “The only thing they are achieving at this point is confusing the public.”
“I hate to hear that they keep on using the lack of global supply as an excuse when Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, also developing countries, have already begun their vaccination program with Pfizer and AstraZeneca,” the senator further pressed. “Those are the same brands of vaccines we were supposed to have received by now. That means the problem is on our end. The NTF should acknowledge that so [slipups] don’t happen again.”
Yet the vaccine czar remained hopeful that the country’s ongoing talks with the COVAX facility would push through with 44 million doses it promised to the Philippines.
He added that there was a possibility of some government officials traveling to India to acquire for the Philippines a supply of the Serum Institute of India’s Novavax vaccine.
Sinovac had also recently been granted emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, readying the Philippines for a donation of 600,000 doses from China.