Private companies can purchase Covid-19 vaccines: Palace

By Azer Parrocha

March 22, 2021, 5:25 pm

MANILA – Malacañang on Monday announced that all private companies, including cigarette firms, are allowed to purchase Covid-19 vaccines provided they enter into tripartite agreements with the national government and the manufacturers.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this clarification after lawmakers questioned a supposed draft administrative order (AO) prohibiting private companies from importing Covid-19 vaccines for their employees, even describing the document as “illegal.”

Under the supposed draft AO, the Department of Health and the National Task Force Against Covid-19 (NTF) will review requests of private companies to purchase vaccines “to ensure that private entities who will be part of the agreement are not in any way related to the tobacco industry, products covered under EO 51 series of 1986 or the 'National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, Breastmilk Supplement and Other Related Products' or other products in conflict with public health.”

However, Roque said the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 11525 or the Covid-19 Vaccination Law has been amended to allow private companies to procure Covid-19 vaccines for their employees.

The Covid-19 Vaccination Law provides a legal framework for the vaccination program, including the participation of private entities in that effort.

“Puwede na pong bumili ng bakuna ang lahat ng pribadong kumpanya kasama ang cigarette companies ayon ho sa amended implementing rules and regulations (IRR) ng RA 11525 or the Covid-19 Vaccination Law subject pa rin po sa tripartite agreement kasama ng pribadong sektor (Private firms, including cigarette companies can purchase vaccines according to the amended IRR or RA 11525 or the Covid-19 Vaccination Law subject to tripartite agreement),” he said in a virtual press briefing.

He noted that private firms must enter into tripartite agreements with the vaccine manufacturers and the national government because Covid-19 vaccines are not yet commercially available in the market.

“Hindi po pupuwedeng mawala ang tripartite agreement kasi bagamat puwede nang bumili ang lahat ng kumpanya para sa kanilang mga empleyado e wala pa po tayong mga commercially available na mga bakuna (The tripartite agreement cannot be avoided since there is no commercially available vaccine available yet),” he said.

Roque also pointed out that all Covid-19 vaccines have only been approved for emergency use.

“Lahat po ng mga bakuna sa ngayon ay sakop lamang ng emergency use authorization kaya kinakailangan pa rin po na pumasok ang gobyerno sa pagbili ng mga bakunang ito sa pamamagitan nga po ng tripartite agreements (All of the vaccines are under emergency use authorization that’s why the government needs to enter into a tripartite agreement),” he added.

The DOH on Sunday explained that it was still finalizing the draft AO which would contain the IRR for the Covid-19 Vaccination Law.

In a statement, the DOH said it is “still in the process of reconciling the proposed provisions with other existing laws and guidelines.”

Not commercial products

In a news release on Monday, the DOH and NTF jointly clarified that they are allowed to procure vaccines provided that they enter into tripartite agreements with the national government and the manufacturers.

Pursuant to RA 11525, local government units (LGUs) are authorized to procure vaccines which have been given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration, in cooperation with the DOH and the NTF through a tripartite agreement.

“Like LGUs, a tripartite agreement is necessary for the procurement of vaccines by the private sector. Covid-19 vaccines are not to be treated as commercial products even if issued with EUA,” a separate DOH statement read.

The requirement for a tripartite agreement is specified for three reasons: manufacturers of available Covid-19 vaccines require that indemnification be covered by the national government before finalizing any procurement deals; it is the national government that will shoulder the cost of adverse effects; and available vaccines are only those provided with EUA.

An EUA means that vaccines cannot be sold commercially, and therefore administration must be aligned with the prioritization framework employed by the National Government.

As RA 11525 mandates the creation of a PHP500-million Covid-19 National Vaccine Indemnity Fund to compensate all individuals who might experience adverse event following immunization (AEFI) and given the limited supply of vaccines, officials said it is only proper that the National Government be involved in the vaccine procurement transactions of the private sector. 

Meanwhile, Roque said he would clarify with vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. the supposed condition allowing private companies to purchase Covid-19 vaccines under a tripartite agreement only if 50 percent of the supply will be donated to the government.

“Napansin ko po ‘yan na sa batas wala pong provision na 50 percent ido-donate, pero sa tripartite agreement po nakasulat po ‘yan. So sa tingin ko po kung ang gagamitin pong dokumento ay yung tripartite agreement, e meron pa rin pong donasyon sa gobyerno but I could be wrong kasi pupuwede na maamyendahan na yung tripartite agreement, yung model form, as a result of the passage of the law (I noticed that in the law there’s no provision that 50 percent should be donated to government but in the tripartite agreement it’s stated there. So, I think if we use the tripartite agreement, the donation is required but I could be wrong because the tripartite agreement could also be amended as a result of the passage of the law),” he said.

Business groups have urged the government to allow the private sector to buy Covid-19 vaccines directly without restrictions or conditions to avoid getting left behind by neighbors.

The private sector was previously able to buy AstraZeneca vaccines, but only under the condition that 50 percent of the doses would be donated to the government. (PNA)