Palace: Pfizer jabs from COVAX to go to poor Filipinos

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the distribution of the coronavirus vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech to the country’s indigent population, Malacañang said Thursday.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the chief executive’s directive is in compliance with the conditions set by the COVAX vaccine-sharing facility, which donated over 193,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

“The president ordered that Pfizer be given to the poor or the indigent population because that is the policy of COVAX,” Roque said in Filipino during a briefing.

It is unclear whether the order will apply to the current supply of Pfizer doses or the next shipment. Local governments with Pfizer allocation made the sought-after vaccine available to healthcare workers, senior citizens and persons with comorbidities. 

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. earlier said the vaccines allocated to the indigent population, or A5 in the government’s vaccine priority list, will come from COVAX facility.

The World Health Organization-led initiative aims to give protection to high-risk and vulnerable people, as well as frontline healthcare workers.

Some 2.2 million Pfizer vaccine doses from COVAX are expected to arrive in the country within the month. The vaccine needs to be stored at the required -80 to -60 degrees Celsius temperature.

“The president added that Pfizer vaccines should not be administered in malls, but in vaccination sites in barangays where vaccine take-up is low,” Roque also said.

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President’s order

An order refraining local governments from making advance announcements of vaccines that will be offered in inoculation sites came from the president, Roque said.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government ordered cities and municipalities Thursday not to announce vaccine brands available in vaccination centers, following the recommendation of the Department of Health. The suggestion drew criticism, with people saying it might erode trust in the country’s vaccination program.

“First of all, it’s the president who ordered that because he saw the lack of social distancing in some areas where a Pfizer inoculation was announced,” Roque said.

In a speech recorded Monday but aired Tuesday, Duterte said Filipinos cannot be picky with the brand of COVID-19 vaccine they will receive. Duterte has received a dose of the vaccine developed by Chinese firm Sinopharm that has yet to be granted Emergency Use Authorization by government regulators. 

The DOH and the DILG assured Filipinos they will still be informed of the brand of COVID-19 jabs they are getting once they are in vaccination hubs.

Government officials and medical experts have been urging the public to take any vaccine offered to them. The DOH said that all vaccines available in the country are safe and effective, and that “the best vaccine is the one that is available now, regardless of the brand.”

The country is gearing up to vaccinate economic frontliners and indigent Filipinos in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, Pampanga, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao, with the goal of achieving herd immunity in these areas by November. 

Government figures showed that 786,528 Filipinos have been fully vaccinated as of May 18, while 2.5 million have received their first dose.

Article by Philstar via Albert Rovic Tan / AdChoiceTV News

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