By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Sen. Grace Poe asked the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to speed up the processing of emergency use authorization (EUA) applications for COVID-19 vaccines to dispel suspicions that officials are just waiting for grease money to fast track approval.
“If the virus won’t kill us, then red tape and slow government action surely will.”
At the Senate committee of the whole hearing, FDA director general Eric Domingo said the FDA should complete the processing of Pfizer’s EUA application this week while AstraZeneca’s application should be processed by next week. The processing of the applications takes 21 days.
“The process can be shortened,” Poe said. “Para mawala ang mga haka-haka ng ating mga kababayan na siguro naghihintay ng kickback ang DOH kaya hindi agad nabibigyan ng permit. It may be an unfair assessment but would you blame them with the track record the DOH has.”
While stringent processing is crucial especially if records on the trials of the vaccines are not transparent and regulators in the home country of the pharmaceutical companies are not perceived to be credible, the FDA should speed it up when it comes from companies and countries with a better track record.
“These companies have gone through a rigorous process of testing in countries with reputable testing facilities tapos pagdating sa atin ganito. Alam na nga nating national emergency, we cannot even fast track something like this,” Poe said.
“The process seems unreasonably long, to accredit a company that has already been accredited so many times in other countries,” she stressed.
Poe said it is important for government to be transparent in the procurement of the vaccines and account for every peso that it spends on them to make way for its other expenditure items.
“How do we know in the end that we paid the right price for this,” Poe said.
The finance department said it is looking at spending as much as P140.5 billion on COVID-19 vaccines that government wants to administer on 100 million Filipinos. The private sector has also been buying vaccines on their own and will be donating a portion of the vaccines they buy which should bring down the cost for government. The average cost of the vaccine for 100 million Filipinos would be P1,405 based on the amount the finance department had in mind.
“The government has overlooked that the private sector is not only more efficient but also unencumbered by the restrictions under the procurement law. Wala silang limitation on signing contracts for products which are still under development. It’s their money, so they assume the financial and associated risk,” Poe said.
“So it really baffles me why government is busy restricting private companies when we should be working with them to overcome the limitations in our laws and regulations,” she added. (AI/MTVN)