MANILA, Philippines — The administration has only until end of February to sign the offer sheets for COVID-19 vaccines from foreign drugmakers, Sen. Sonny Angara said Sunday, citing information from the country's vaccination czar.
Government's promise to inoculate 50 to 70 million Filipinos this 2021 is facing significant hurdles as officials have still not finalized purchase deals, while the delivery of doses from COVAX facility has been delayed too, despite an earlier pronouncement that it could be here by mid-February.
Over DZBB, the Senate finance committee chair said he was told by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. of the said deadline, but did not mention as to what will happen if this is not met.
"The government has to respond or sign before February ends along with the downpayment for the vaccines. So that's already the deadline," Angara said in Filipino. "So, that's still the deadline."
Still, Angara said he was told also by Galvez that the country is still assured of supplies from vaccine manufacturers despite no final procurement deals to date.
The vaccine czar previosuly said the Philippines had signed indemnity agreements with Pfizer and AstraZeneca under the COVAX facility.
The indemnification "holds a business or company" harmless in the event that its vaccines cause unexpected adverse effects, as the jabs are only approved for emergency use.
Measures establishing a fund for this are also pending in both chambers of Congress, with President Rodrigo Duterte certifying the bills as urgent to fast-track approval.
Apparent delays in the arrival of the sought-after jabs had been scored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros last week, saying the changing dates of when the vaccines are expected to arrive cause confusion.
"It's as if they are playing darts on the calendar, not caring where it lands," she said. "They should have some accountability for the [dates] they announce."
Angara said he too was a bit concerned over the vaccines from COVAX taking long to arrive. He stressed that the offer sheets should be signed as soon as possible, as the jabs will still have to go through processes.
"Hopefully, this means that signing will soon take place and the payment, delivery and rollout will be fast-tracked too," he said, commenting on Galvez's recent apology for the delay. "There are local processes that the vaccines will have to go through when they arrive."
The government has been holding simulations of the vaccination roll-out in preparation for when the jabs finally arrive.