Private sector to donate vaccines to gov’t if COVAX supplies delayed
Anti-parasitic not a substitute for vaccines says ivermectin advocate
Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Ma. “Joey” Concepcion III said that the private sector would prioritize donating 500,000 AstraZeneca doses to the government if deliveries from the COVAX global facility to the Philippine government are delayed.
The Philippines has already received more than 500,000 AstraZeneca doses from the facility, which were used to inoculate medical frontliners. The second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should be given four to 12 weeks after the first.
Mr. Concepcion leads the Dose of Hope initiative which helped procure AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines through tripartite agreements with the private sector and local governments. Of the doses bought by businesses, half are to go to their employees first and the second half will be donated to the government.
“(The government’s) worry is that if COVAX does not deliver sometime (in) May, what will happen to their doses? They need it at least by June, the second shot,” Mr. Concepcion said at the Vaccine Summit: Equitable Distribution and Safety on Friday. The summit was organized by the International Chamber of Commerce Philippines, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the International Chamber of Commerce.
“Since (vaccine czar Carlito G. Galvez, Jr.) allowed us to take our… purchase first and our donation will be back-ended, they requested and asked me if we can help them with 500,000 doses for those that took already their first dose and of course we said yes, we would support them.”
The vaccines from Dose of Hope will be given to the government first if the COVAX deliveries do not arrive by June, he said.
Mr. Concepcion told the House Committees on Health and Trade and Industry last week that the private sector would vaccinate its own employees before donating shots to the government.
COVAX deliveries were delayed and possibly reduced due to a global shortage, the World Health Organization said.
COVAX — COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access — is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization.
Meanwhile, Concerned Doctors and Citizens of the Philippines head Allan Landrito, an advocate of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin, said at the same Vaccine Summit that the contentious drug is not a substitute for a COVID-19 vaccine. “These are two different things. You cannot compare treatment with vaccines,” he said, but went on to note that, “in terms of very effective treatment of handling COVID-19… while you are using ivermectin and you are having COVID-19, you are allowing a natural immunity to set in.”
Some other stakeholders at the same event called for the immediate approval of the drug as a COVID-19 treatment. Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis said there is enough literature about ivermectin for the government to look into.
“There are so many countries and publications that have accepted it… How can you even say there is a lack… when the policy for other medicines and other vaccines is so different. Allow them to use it because if it can save some lives, it should save some lives,” he said.
However the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration said in a joint statement on Friday that while they are “not against the use of investigational drugs,” they “emphasized that in using products with unproven efficacies, the safety of every Filipino should take utmost precedence.”
Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said that self-administering the drug is risky, noting that there could possibly be harmful effects since it has not been tested and tested locally by the FDA as a COVID-19 cure. Only veterinary grade ivermectin is registered locally, but a compassionate special permit has been given to five hospitals, allowing the use of ivermectin for the purpose of the treatment.
Debates on the use of the drug have intensified this week after an “ivermectin pantry” was opened by Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Michael Defensor and SAGIP Partylist Rep. Rodente Marcoleta. Both lawmakers, who said doctors were present and giving prescriptions for the drug at the event. They were slammed after reports surfaced online of seemingly invalid prescriptions that lacked the doctors’ names and contact details that were supposedly given during the event.
In a separate briefing Friday, Health Undersecretary Rosario S. Vergeire said that there are laws that need to be followed when giving prescriptions to patients.
The health department and the FDA said they will endorse reports on the allegedly invalid prescriptions to the Professional Regulation Commission.
In a separate statement, the Philippine Pharmacists Association, Inc. slammed the lawmakers over the dispensing of ivermectin. “An invalid prescription must not be served. A waiver signed by a patient cannot exonerate the prescriber or the pharmacist from the accountability in case of adverse drug reaction,” the organization said on Friday. — Gillian M. Cortez and Jenina P. Ibanez