The arrival of the COVID-19 bivalent vaccines supposedly to be donated by the COVAX facility to the Philippines, has been put on indefinite hold due to some conditions set by the vaccine manufacturers, Department of Health (DOH) officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Tuesday.
According to Vergeire, the DOH was still exploring available legal remedies for the deal to push through under the United Nations-backed international vaccine-sharing scheme.
“For now, we are on hold. But we are confident that we can still push through and get this COVAX donation,” Vergeire said in a press briefing.
The delay was reportedly caused by a change in conditions on the immunity from liability and indemnification clauses required by the manufacturers after the Philippines lifted the state of calamity over the COVID-19.
“We have tried exhausting all possible means so that this transaction will push through. We were in constant coordination with the Office of the President, with the Department of Justice, with the Office of Solicitor General just so we can identify available legal remedies so that we can go on and have these COVAX donations,” Vergeire said.
“Ito ang pinag-aaralan mabuti para naman hindi natin nagi-give up ‘yung ating mga karapatan bilang bansa in terms of these agreements,” she said.
“This is being studied carefully so that we do not give up our rights as a country in terms of these agreements. So for now, we are on hold, but we are confident that we can still push through and get these COVAX donations,” she added.
The first batch of donated bivalent vaccines was supposed to arrive by the end of March.
This consists of 1,002,000 doses which the COVAX committed to the Philippines.
Bivalent vaccines are second-generation jabs that target the Omicron variant.
Vergeire said one option they are looking at was the stipulation in the bill establishing the Philippine Center for Disease Control (CDC) which would cover vaccine agreements.
“We have included a provision which covers these things that we want to avoid or these provisions that are needed in our agreements with those that are going to donate COVID-19 vaccines here in the country,” she said.
As of March 16, some 79.1 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the DOH said.
Of this figure, over 23.8 million have received their first booster dose and almost 4.4 million have gotten their second booster shots.