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Salceda wants to scrap or soften rule requiring private sector to enter into multi-party agreements, prohibition against selling vaccine; House economic recovery chief wants pharmacies to be able to administer booster shots, vaccines

January 7th, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) says “it’s time to loosen up restrictions against vaccine purchases by the private sector,” proposing amendments to Republic Act No. 11525, or the COVID-19 Vaccination Law, that would allow private sector players to procure vaccines without multi-party agreements with the government, and allow pharmacies and clinics to administer COVID-19 booster shots.

“The reason for the tight restrictions was that global supply was severely constrained. That is no longer the case. We are the only country in our region that has such tight rules against private sector procurement of COVID-19 vaccines,” Salceda said.

Salceda adds that his version of the law, the Bayanihan sa Bakuna Act, or House Bill No. 8285, did not require private sector procurers to engage in multi-party agreements with the government, and instead grants the President the power to expedite requests for authorization to import COVID-19 vaccines.

Salceda also says that his version allows the President to grant requests of private sector players to administer the vaccines.

“In fact, our law allows pharmacies to administer COVID-19 vaccines. RA 10918 is clear that if the vaccine is approved by the FDA, the vaccine can be administered by pharmacies. That is also the case in the US, where pharmacies are vaccination centers for COVID,” Salceda added.

Salceda also noted that “in countries like Thailand, you can already order your COVID-19 booster shot online and just pay for it. No need to wait for the local government unit or to line up, where you are also at risk of infection.”

“Now is the time to diffuse our COVID-19 vaccination program. We no longer need to be so uptight, especially as global suppliers are now able to handle orders.”

“I still think some prior authorization by the DOH and the FDA is necessary for a private sector player to import vaccines, but I don’t think we should restrict them to multi-party agreements, or prevent them from selling vaccines, as long as there are reasonable price restrictions. Price caps can still be implemented under the State of Calamity declared by PRRD under Proclamation No. 1218,” Salceda explained.

“In fact, it’s a good idea to have vaccines available for selling. It encourages the rich to buy their own vaccines and leaves the free vaccines procured by the government to the indigents. And it also means that there are people willing to pay for the vaccines as long as they can get them earlier,” Salceda added.

“With Omicron here, let’s just make it easier for everyone to buy and get a vaccine. If you want one for free, your LGU will have some for you for free. If you want to get it without having to go to a crowded vaccination center, you can also get it at your nearest pharmacy. That, I think, is the most practical way to get more people vaccinated faster – just let everyone who wants one to get one,” Salceda said.

Immediate steps

Right now, Salceda says, the government can “drop any rule that says private sector players have to donate vaccines to the government.”

“The law does not require such donations. And frankly, the private sector probably is faster at exhausting their supplies than the government will, since they will only order what they can release,” Salceda said.

“Besides, whether the private sector or the government administers the jab, the result is the same in terms of reaching herd immunity. So, let’s just allow people to get the jabs in the manner that they want.”

“In terms of vaccinators, the more, the merrier at this point.” Salceda said. (end)

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