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Duterte orders Galvez to allow private sector to import vaccines 'at will'

President Rodrigo Duterte has given orders to government to ensure that private companies can quickly bring in COVID-19 vaccines they secure from manufacturers amid an alarming surge in transmissions.

"I have ordered Secretary Galvez to sign any and all documents that would allow the private sector to import at will. Maski magkano, ilan ang gusto nila ipasok, okay sa akin," said Duterte on Monday, March 29, during a meeting on the pandemic.

(Whatever the cost, whatever the amount they want to bring in, it's fine with me.)

The President was referring to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr, also present at the meeting.

"We are allowing the private sector immediately to open the buying of COVID vaccines, wherever they can get it because what the government got is only a limited amount," Duterte said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Desperate bid

Filipino business groups have aired their frustration over the slow rollout of vaccines by the government. So far, only 39% of the country's 1.7 million healthcare workers have been given jabs. This is less than 1% of the country's 110 million population.

Aggressive vaccination is now seen as the only hope for the Philippines as it battles a new wave of infections after reopening the economy.

The Philippine government has never barred private firms from securing their own vaccines. However, firms must involve the government in any agreement with vaccine makers because COVID-19 vaccines are all still under emergency use authorization, which means vaccine makers require indemnification.

Indemnification, or ensuring that vaccine firms are immune from suit, and paying for adverse effects of the vaccines, is a burden only the national government can assume.

But with Duterte's order, the government will have more of a reason to fast-track such arrangements and make it easier for private companies to get these deals. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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