“Poorest of the poor,” military and police to get COVID-19 vaccines first

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 01 August) —  The “poorest of the poor” Filipinos, the military and police will be the priority for vaccination against COVID-19 once a vaccine is available, President Rodrigo Duterte said.

In the distribution of vaccines, Duterte in his “Talk to the People on COVID-19” aired Friday morning said priority will be given to the beneficiaries of the government’s social amelioration program (SAP), sick and dying patients, and police and military officers.

“And also my military and my police because I need a strong backbone. The backbone of my administration is the uniformed personnel of government,” said Duterte who also vowed to give the military supervision over the vaccines because giving it to the barangays, he said. will subject it to the political whims of the leaders.

President Rodrigo Duterte announces during the Inter-Agency Task Force meeting in Malacanang on 31 January 2020 that he is confident a vaccine would be available soon and the PHilippines will be “back to normal” by December 2020. PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

“Ngayon sino ang magdala nito? Military. Military lang. Bahala na. I’m asking the Armed Forces, I’m asking General Lorenzana. Kayo man ring ang… (So who will supervise this? Military. Just the military. Never mind. I’m asking the Armed Forces, I’m asking General Lorenza [Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana]. You are the…) There’s the setup, kaya may Task Force tayo. But the implementing arm, military.”

In the same meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said that the  once the vaccines are available, the national government plans to procure what vaccine the Department of Health (DOH) will choose, to be administered to the “first and lowest 20 million in our country.”

Dominguez said the administration’s economic team has already prepared a “financing plan” to get the much needed vaccines from pharmaceutical companies.

He said they would tap the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) of the Department of the Trade and Industry (DTI) to get the vaccines that the DOH would choose.

“The estimate of the Department of Health, we will need to vaccinate for free a minimum of 20 million people, right? So I don’t know if it’s one vaccine or two shots, two shots. So we need — so 40 million vaccines — doses, 40 million doses,” Dominguez said after Duque replied each person would require two doses.

Dominguez estimated the vaccines to cost 10 US dollars each at 40 million doses or 400 million US dollars,  “roughly 20 billion pesos” which can be financed by the Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines payable in two to three years.

Duterte in the same meeting mentioned the companies currently on their third stage of developing the vaccines, many of them from China. In his State of the Nation Address on Monday, Duterte said he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jin Ping who assured him the Philippines will be given priority once the vaccines are available.

Reading in part the letter of China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, Duterte said: “The Philippines is a friendly close neighbor to China. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the two countries have been standing together with mutual assistance, turning epidemic cooperation a new highlight in bilateral.”

Dominguez said there are three pharmaceutical companies from China, one from Britian, and one from US that are already in the stage 3 clinical trials, which might be completed by October and might begin commercial production before December 2020.

He said the first 20 million people, who are the poorest of the poor, will get priority access to the vaccines.

He added the economy could fully reopen once the vaccines are available.

“Once the — once the vaccine is available, I’m sure the economy now can be fully open and we can start — not the new normal, the normal life,” he added.

According to Department of Health, the country recorded 93,354 cases as of July 31 with 2,023 deaths and 65,178 recoveries.

Duterte said he has been asked for a roadmap to recovery from COVID-19. “Hindi nga kami maka-roadmap because we were talking about a budget. Ito, ito ngayong gabing ito. Hindi kami maka-ano ng (We could not do a roadmap because we were talking about a budget. Tonight. We could not) — I could not have uttered a single sentence about roadmap to recovery kasi ang una talaga diyan ang medicine” (because medicine is the priority).

He said people are asking about the plan. “Wala pa akong plano kahapon kasi ngayon lang ito dumating eh” (I had no plan yesterday because this just arrived), Dtuerte said).

“Ito, ito, itong balita sa vaccine ‘yung ilan ‘yung kumpleto na talaga. So Sonny will talk about it, where to get the money and how to go about going out of a post ano na, post-COVID Philippines by December I suppose,” Duterte said.

He said the rich would not get free vaccines since they can afford to buy their own.

The drug pushers, too, will not get free vaccines. “Tingin ko sa kanya aso. Hindi ako magtulong sa inyo. Sinisira ninyo ‘yung Pilipinas, pinapatay ninyo ang tao” (I look at them as dogs. I will not help you. You are destroying the Philppines, you are killing people), he said.

He said the New People’s Army can avail of free vaccines provided they do not attack the military.

“I promise you by the grace of God I hope by December we would be back to normal,” Duterte added.  (Antonio L. Colina IV  with a report by Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)C