Duterte hopes COVID-19 vaccine available by December
By Celerina Monte
President Rodrigo Duterte has expressed hope that by December this year, there is already a vaccine for coronavirus disease, particularly from China.
If this happens,Duterte assured that the poorest of the poor Filipinos, the sick or dying and the soldiers, among others will first get the vaccine.
"I promise you, by the grace of God, I hope by December we would be back to normal. Not the new normal because as I said from the start, let's just wait for the vaccine," he said in a taped televised meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on Thursday night but aired on Friday morning.
"I really salute the Chinese. Others are just talking. We might first avail (vaccine) from China," he said.
He noted that the Philippines remained friendly with China, which recently assured to give priority to Manila once COVID-19 vaccine is successfully developed.
"They promised that we are a priority," he added.
In the same meeting, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said that three pharmaceutical companies from China, one from Britain and another from the United States are on the third stage of their development of the vaccine for COVID-19.
He said the Food and Drugs Administration of their respective countries might approve the vaccine by the fourth quarter of this year.
"So, when that happens, the Department of Health will choose the right vaccine that we will purchase," he said.
Citing the DOH's estimate, Dominguez said the government will provide free vaccine for at least 20 million Filipinos.
"The estimate of the Department of Health is we will need to vaccinate for free a minimum of 20 million people. So, I don't know if it's one vaccine or two shots, two shots. So 40 million vaccines - doses, 40 million doses. The 40 million doses times roughly 10 dollars per dose is 400 million dollars or roughly 20 billion pesos," he said.
Duterte said those in the government's list, which could first receive the vaccine once it is available are the poorest Filipinos.
"Those who will get first are the poorest and, of course, those in the hospitals, the sick or dying," he said.
The members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police will also be on the top of the list.
"My military and my police because I need a strong backbone. The backbone of my administration is the uniformed personnel of government," the President said.
The next to receive the vaccine are the middle income Filipinos, while the last will be the rich people.
Duterte said he will tap the military and police for distribution of the vaccine and not barangay officials who can only be engaged in politicking.
"There's the set up, that's why we have a Task Force. But the implementing arm, military," he said.
He also said members of the communist New People's Army who will not fight government forces will also receive the vaccine.
But Duterte said he will not waste the government's money to drug lords, pushers and addicts.
"I won't help you. You're destroying the Philippines, you're killing the people," he said.
Meanwhile, amid criticisms for having no COVID-19 roadmap during his fifth State of the Nation Address last Monday, Duterte admitted that there was none until his meeting on Thursday night.
"I could not have uttered a single sentence about roadmap to recovery because there should be a medicine first," he said.
"I don't have any plan yesterday because it only came now," Duterte added. DMS