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ICYMI: Duque In Boiling Water For ‘Missed Chance’ At January 2021 COVID-19 Vaccine

In a set of cryptic tweets, Senator Panfilo Lacson said that someone had "dropped the ball" on the vaccine talks with Pfizer.

The COVID-19 vaccine is finally rolling out in some countries and frontliners are being prioritized for the vaccination. Some high ranking public officials like United States Vice President Mike Pence will be publicly receiving the vaccine soon to encourage the general public to get themselves vaccinated as well. However, there have been reports that some of those who got vaccinated had allergic reactions to the vaccine.

But despite these reports, everyone is still keen on getting their hands on this vaccine, especially with the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide have already breached the 75 million mark as of writing. And the Philippines is no exception–in fact, the government had wanted to secure vaccines as early as January 2021. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t push through. (Read: ‘COVID-19 Vaccine Rights Should Be Exercised Fairly’ – Vatican Diplomat)

Twitter accusations

And the failure to secure the vaccines has become an issue in the government. According to Senator Panfilo Lacson, it was because of Department of Health (DOH) secretary Francisco Duque III that we weren’t able to get the 10 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

In a tweet on his official Twitter account, Lacson said that someone “dropped the ball” after they had passed it to him to secure the vaccines. “Instead of aiming at the hoop, he scratched his balls so he dropped the ball even as time was running out,” Lacson’s tweet said.

(Left) Senator Panfilo Lacson (Right) Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin (Photos from LeAnne Jazul / Rappler and (Malacau00f1ang) Malacañang Photo / Rappler)

And because of this certain person, who Senator Lacson didn’t name, Singapore had the chance to get the 10 million doses by January next year. The Philippines was way ahead of Singapore in the list of those procuring vaccines, but because of negligence, they had gotten the doses we were eyeing. (Read: How do you eat healthy while in quarantine? We asked a nutritionist-dietician!)

Though there were no names dropped, many are assuming he was talking about Duque, as he mentioned the health secretary in relation to a tweet made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin. The tweet said, “That said my thanks just the same to US Sec of State Mike Pompeo we—Babe Romualdez and I—got 10 million doses of Pfizer financed by World Bank and ADB to be shipped thru FEDEX to Clark in January. BUT SOMEBODY DROPPED THE BALL. I have steel ball bearings. I just need a slingshot.”

Lacking one document

Senator Lacson said that Secretary Duque failed to submit the Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA) which was required to secure the doses. He added that if it weren’t for Duque’s ‘negligence’, many lives would have been saved as early as January.

Senator Francis Pangilinan also said that if it is proven that the health secretary did “drop the ball” on the talks with Pfizer, he may be sued for “gross and inexcusable negligence under the anti-graft law.”

A nurse holds a vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at University Hospital in Coventry, England, Dec. 8, 2020, the first day of the largest immunization program in British history. (Photo from CNS photo/Jacob King pool / Reuters / The Catholic Register)

However, Secretary Duque denied the allegation and said that negotiations with Pfizer are still underway. “No, walang ganoon. It was all indicative numbers. There was no definitive supply. I think if you will get a chance to talk to Sec. Galvez, he would tell you there is a problem in the production of these vaccines as we are talking because meron daw problem sa kanilang raw materials,” he said.  (Read: Pope Francis: ‘COVID-19 vaccine should be shared to the world when discovered’)

According to him, there was “nothing binding” in their talks with Pfizer, “This was all open-ended, exploratory, and it was really meant to just get the data from Pfizer to know more about the safety profile of the vaccine, efficacy, result of the clinical phase 1 and 2 trials because at that time they are still not done with their clinical trials phase 3,” Duque explained.

Alternative vaccines

Even with the issue on the Pfizer vaccine still at hand, the Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez has already announced that the country can secure 25 million doses of vaccines from pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Arcturus. (Read: Experts Warn Public as PH Sees Dramatic Rise in COVID-19 Cases)

Moderna said it had improved the shelf life and stability of its own vaccine, so it can be stored at standard refrigeration temperatures of 2C to 8C for 30 days. (Photo from Dado Ruvić / Reuters / The Guardian)

“I am pleased to report that aside from Pfizer, Moderna and Arcturus are ready to supply the Philippines anywhere between 4-25M of their respective vaccines starting Q3 of 2021, should the Philippine government find their proposals acceptable,” he said. He added that he hopes the government will consider these vaccines as well as it also showed promising results in the trials.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to grant the Moderna vaccine an emergency use authorization (EUA) after hearing the recommendations from their panel. Arcturus, on the other hand, is eyeing to distribute their vaccine in Q1 of 2021, after a promising interim result in their clinical study.


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