CHED: 'Big universities' want to buy their own COVID-19 vaccines

Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Prospero de Vera III said on Tuesday, May 18, that "many big universities" expressed interest in buying their own COVID-19 vaccines.

In a press briefing on Tuesday morning, De Vera said he referred them to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr for coordination of the procurement process and agreements with vaccine makers.

"In our meeting with them, many big universities indicated that they would like to procure vaccines and we referred them to the office of Secretary Galvez because his office is in charge of the coordination of the agreements so we leave that decision to the universities to procure," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

While he did not identify these universities, De Vera said that some of them are connected to big companies that are procuring vaccine shots for their employees.

"Remember, some of our big schools are part of business conglomerates. They have financial capability to procure their vaccines," he added.

De Vera did not give further details of the discussion they had with the universities whether the vaccines would be for the campus staff or for the students or both.

Frontline personnel in basic education and higher education institutions and agencies are included in the priority list of the government for vaccination under the A4. Malacañang said that the government aims to begin vaccinating the A4 and A5 groups after the month of May.

Students' vaccination

In the same briefing, De Vera said that the government coronavirus task force will discuss this week the prioritization of students in the government's vaccination program so they could get back some normalcy in the education sector.

"There are countries in other parts of the world that are changing their policy or reviewing their policy and thinking of vaccinating their students so they could go back to some face to face classes," he said.

De Vera added, "I think this will be taken up in the IATF meeting this week."

The government has allowed limited face-to-face classes of over 60 medical schools in the country. (READ: LIST: Medical schools in the Philippines allowed to hold face-to-face classes)

CHED said it was eyeing to allow other programs to do in-person classes as well, such as engineering and information technology programs, if the medical schools would have zero COVID-19 cases.

Philippine schools have stopped face-to-face classes for over a year now. Classes are currently being done via distance learning.

Many students and groups have also called for an "academic freeze" as the country fights the pandemic. They pointed out that the coronavirus lockdown affected household finances, and many Filipinos don't even have access to a computer or the internet. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.