Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said the national government will not tie down mayors and governors in choosing a particular COVID-19 vaccine for their constituents.
"I'm now addressing the mayors and governors, you can choose any vaccine you like to buy. Wala kaming pakialam kung ano ang pipiliin 'nyo (We don't care which one you'll choose)," he said on Wednesday, January 13, during a meeting with pandemic task force officials at the Malacañang Golf Clubhouse.
His promise comes amid successive announcements of cities signing deals with British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca for hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses.
Duterte later on clarified that local governments would still have to choose from the COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a national government agency.
"Maraming local government units who opted to go on their own. Sila ang magbili, may pera sila, and sila ang mamili ng kanilang vaccine.... And they insist to be given the freedom to choose because may pera sila," said Duterte.
(Many local government units opted to go on their own. They will buy because they have money, and they want to choose their vaccine.... And they insist to be given the freedom to choose because they have money.)
He then said the national government is "not forcing" any local government to adopt the vaccines to be patronized by the national government.
While local governments had signed deals with AstraZeneca, a few like Davao City, led by Duterte's daughter Sara, are also in talks with Chinese firm Sinovac.
The national government, however, has just signed a deal with Sinovac for 25 million doses of its vaccine, CoronaVac.
Duterte defended Chinese-made vaccines in the same meeting, saying they are "as good" as American- or European-made ones.
The Philippine leader has long expressed a preference for Chinese or Russian vaccines, with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque even saying last Monday, January 11, that if Duterte had his way, he would get injected with both a Chinese and Russian vaccine.
The newly-signed Sinovac agreement means the Philippines has secured supplies of 3 vaccines – those of Sinovac, Novavax, and AstraZeneca – so far.
However, the FDA is yet to approve any vaccine for emergency use. Of the 3 secured vaccines, only AstraZeneca has applied for emergency use approval as of this writing. – Rappler.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.