Senate dared to name vaccine plan bills to pass

Senate dared to name vaccine plan bills to pass

MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday challenged the Senate to identify legislations that it will pass in relation to its investigation into the government’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccination plan.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after the Senate on Monday resumed its inquiry on the government’s vaccination plan which was attended by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III earlier said the Senate will resume its public hearing into the government’s Covid-19 vaccine plan on Friday (Jan. 22) to raise more questions about the pricing and distribution of vaccines, including what critics described as a preference for China-made vaccines.

Roque questioned the need to conduct further hearings in aid of legislation when Galvez had already explained how a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) prevented the government from disclosing the prices of vaccines.

“Hindi lang po maisip talaga ng Palasyo kung ano yung gagawin nilang batas para rito. Kung tutol po sila sa CDA, baka gumawa sila ng batas na pinagbabawal ang CDA. Pag nangyari po ‘yun, wala nang magbebenta sa’tin ng gamot sa Pilipinas (The Palace just can’t figure out what legislations they’ll make from these hearings. If they are against having a CDA, they might draft laws prohibiting CDA. When that happens, nobody will sell their medicines to the Philippines),” he said in a Palace press briefing.

He dared senators to come up with a list of bills that would help improve the government’s Covid-19 vaccination program.

“Gusto ko rin po marinig at ng taongbayan, kung ano yung lalabas na batas sa resulta ng imbestigasyon na ito dahil ‘yan po yung dahilan kung kaya ang tawag sa imbestigasyon na ‘yan in aid of legislation (I as well as the people want to know what laws will result from these investigations because that’s the reason why you’re holding these investigations, in aid of legislation),” he added.

Should the Senate decide to continue its vaccine probe, Roque said the executive branch will continue to cooperate.

“Nakikipag cooperate po ang executive at ang sabi nga ni Presidente, patuloy pa rin mag-a-attend ang ating mga kalihim doon sa mga pagdinig sa Senado, sagutin ang kanilang mga tanong pero kung binabastos sila, mag walk out (The executive will continue to cooperate, and the President said officials will continue to attend Senate hearings, just answer questions, but if you are being insulted, just walk out),” he said.

Galvez, meanwhile, assured that he will disclose the prices of Covid-19 vaccines once the necessary supply agreements are finalized.

He said the country could lose its access to 148 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines if it violates the non-disclosure agreement with manufacturers.

However, he also expressed willingness to participate in an executive session in Senate to divulge Covid-19 vaccines’ price tags.

The national government has earmarked PHP82.5 billion for the vaccine procurement, of which PHP70 billion will come from loans, PHP2.5 from the 2021 national budget, and PHP10 billion from the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2.

It has also signed term sheet agreements with US drug maker Novovax to supply the Philippines with 30 million doses of vaccine as well as with Moderna (20 million doses) and AstraZeneca (17 million doses).

The country initially secured 25 million doses of Sinovac vaccine with the first 50,000 doses expected to arrive in February.

The government has yet to sign a term sheet agreement with Pfizer, also a US pharmaceutical company.

Following the deaths of several elderly people in Norway after receiving doses of vaccine produced by US drug maker Pfizer, Roque assured that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines is already revisiting the emergency use authorization (EUA) it granted to the American vaccine manufacturer.

“Wala naman pong epekto ‘yan sa pagkuha natin ng Pfizer. Nagsalita na po si Director-General ng ating FDA [Eric Domingo] at ang sabi po niya nakipag-ugnayan sila doon sa counterpart nila sa Norway (That has no effect in our plans to purchase Pfizer. Our FDA Director-General has also coordinated with their counterparts in Norway),” he said.

He said government will still push through with its Pfizer procurement, noting that clinical trials show that the brand is 95 percent effective in preventing Covid-19.

Norway earlier said that there is no link established between the Pfizer vaccine and any post-vaccination deaths in the country, but recommended doctors should consider the overall health of the most frail before giving them the shot. (PNA)

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