business groups in PH

Businesses want to directly import COVID-19 vaccines

Ralf Rivas
Businesses want to directly import COVID-19 vaccines

Astra Zeneca vaccine for Tagaytay healthcare workers. - Dr. Renielyn Pacheco, OB Gynecologist of Tagaytay Medical Center, one of 120 healthcare workers of upland City of Tagaytay received the first dose of Astra Zeneca vaccine provided by National Government for healthcare frontliners during the first day of vaccination in the province of Cavite, Wednesday, March 10, 2021. Photo by Dennis Abrina/Rappler

Dennis Abrina/Rappler

'We cannot risk being left behind again,' says the Philippines' biggest business group. Health advocates, however, are against patchwork purchasing of vaccines.

The Philippines’ largest business group on Wednesday, March 17, urged the government to allow the private sector to buy and import COVID-19 vaccines directly from accredited sources with no restrictions or conditions.

In a statement, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said doing so would help in the country’s economic recovery and help vaccinate more people.

“We urge the government to allow the private sector to import vaccines without restrictions or conditions so we could move quickly and efficiently in vaccinating more people,” PCCI president Benedicto Yujuico said.

“We have to keep pace with our neighbors, which except for Indonesia, have lower infection rates than us and yet are ahead of us – including Indonesia – in implementing the vaccination program. We cannot risk being left behind again and revert to being the ‘basket case’ of Asia.”

The PCCI also wants vaccines to be tax-free.

“This will reduce pressure from government, which has limited budget to inoculate all or even 70% of the population,” the group said.

Currently, the government is asking the private sector to donate half of the total vaccines they are purchasing.

All vaccine purchases also go through the national government.

Health advocates earlier opposed proposals allowing local government units to directly procure vaccines, noting that this would lead to an inequitable rollout of vaccines in the country. (READ: Health experts ‘strongly oppose’ bills allowing LGUs to directly buy COVID-19 vaccines)

Moreover, they emphasized that the Health Technology Assessment Council, which is mandated to review vaccines and other medical technology, must not be bypassed.

Health groups also noted that patchwork purchasing of vaccines, as opposed to centralized purchase through the national government, would escalate vaccine prices “because the country will lose the scale or volume that one buyer has.” – Rappler.com

Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.