The Malacañang assured the public on Tuesday, May 18, that President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise of free COVID-19 vaccines still stands.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this statement after confusion over a statement made by Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Chair and Senator Richard Gordon that the humanitarian organization will offer vaccines developed by American drugmaker Moderna at P3,500 for every two doses when its orders arrive. (READ: Red Cross to offer Moderna shots for P3,500)
Roque reassured the public that nobody will be required to pay to receive a Covid-19 vaccine.
“Ang pangako po niya ibigay ang mga bakuna ng libre dahil ang mga bakuna naman na inaangkat ng gobyerno ay babayaran ng ating gobyerno (The President’s promise is that he will give vaccines for free because the vaccines are being procured and paid for by the government),” he said in a Palace press briefing.
“Yung mga inaangkat siyempre ng pribadong sector ay para sa kanilang gamit pero wala pong dapat magbenta kasi wala nga pong general use authority pa ang kahit na anong bakuna (The vaccines procured by the private sector are for the use of their employees but no one should sell vaccines because no vaccines have been cleared for general use),” he added.
In his regular pre-recorded Talk to the People televised on Tuesday morning, Duterte ordered the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to supervise the transport and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines after he expressed misgivings about the supposed failure of some local governments to ensure the proper administration of vaccines.
Duterte, in several speeches, said he wanted COVID-19 vaccines to be given to all Filipinos, with priority given to frontline healthcare workers, elderly, those with comorbidities, frontline economic workers, and poor Filipinos.
The country now has four brands of Covid-19 vaccines in its inventory– Sinovac’s CoronaVac (China), AstraZeneca (UK), Sputnik V (Russia), and Pfizer (US).
Since the Philippines launched its vaccination drive on March 1, some 2,282,273 individuals have already been inoculated against Covid-19, including around 719,602 who have already been fully vaccinated.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said that the Philippines can achieve herd immunity by November this year once it reaches its target of 500,000 jabs a day or three million jabs a week.
The Philippines aims to vaccinate around 50 to 70 million Filipinos this year.