In dismissing Vice President Leni Robredo’s suggestion to make a detailed list of recipients for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque contradicted the Department of Health (DOH) when he said there was “already one in existence.”
In a Nov. 23 press briefing, Roque was asked when the government will “come up with the list” following Robredo’s proposition to prepare the names and total number of recipients per sector while the country waits for the COVID-19 vaccines.
Citing President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier statement on prioritized sectors, the spokesperson laughed and said:
“Ito na naman tayo. ‘Pag sinabi po ng presidente 4Ps beneficiary, Ma’am Vice President, mayroon na pong listahan iyan. So maraming salamat po sa suhestiyon pero as usual nagawa na po ng gobyerno iyan kasi may listahan na tayo ng 4Ps, may listahan na tayo ng kapulisan, may listahan na tayo ng kasundaluhan at iyong mga frontliners eh alam naman po ng DOH kung sino sila. So thank you po pero as usual, mayroon na po tayong listahan even before your suggestion.
(Here we go again. If the president said 4Ps, Ma’am Vice President, [it means] we already have a list [of people from that sector]. So, thank you very much for the suggestion but, as usual, the government has already done that because we have an existing list of 4P [beneficiaries], we have a list of members of the police force, a list of members of the military. And, [in the case of] the frontliners, well, the DOH knows who they are. So, thank you, but as usual, we already have a list even before your suggestion.)”
Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Nov. 23, 2020, watch from 9:41 to 10:02
Roque then said the national government doesn’t “have to adopt” Robredo’s suggestion, adding that it came “a bit too late” because the president is already “10 steps ahead” on the matter.
Hours before Roque’s press briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, concurrently the department’s spokesperson, said there is no “final” list specifying the names of individuals, as well as the areas to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccination.
DOH is the lead agency in the government’s Task Group Immunization Program, Vergeire told VERA Files in a letter sent via email on Nov. 26. Its duties include planning and crafting policies, guidelines, and procedures for vaccine deployment. The department is also responsible for “estimating potential numbers” of prioritized target populations for the vaccine by sector and geographic location.
In a media forum around 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 23, Vergeire, who was asked to comment on Robredo’s suggestion, said:
“[K]agaya nga ng sabi natin, tayo po ay nandito pa lang sa stage kung saan fina-finalize po natin ang plano, fina-finalize po natin yung mga criteria natin for (Like what we said, we’re still at the stage where we’re finalizing the plans, finalizing the criteria for) identifying areas to be included and, of course, individuals.”
“Until we can have a final list of the vaccines that we are going to procure, wala pa ho tayong maibibigay kung sino-sino ang ating babakunahan (we can’t give out [a list] on who will receive the vaccine).”
During the Nov. 22 episode of her radio show BISErbisyong Leni, the vice president said, after having been briefed, that she thought the government’s “disposition” for the vaccine is “good,” but that she had a “few suggestions.”
These included the detailed list of vaccine recipients:
“Ang gusto ko sabihin, hindi lang na nakasulat na prioritization pero, halimbawa healthcare workers. Dapat alam na natin ilan ba sila…sino sila, para ‘pag dumating, meron nang recipient. Hindi ‘yung gagawin natin ‘yung listahan ‘pag nandiyan ‘yung vaccine kasi puwede naman ‘yon gawin ngayon.
(What I want to say is, [don’t just] list the prioritization but — for example, healthcare workers. We should know how many they are, who they are, so that when the [vaccine] comes, there are already recipients, [rather than] coming up with a list only when the vaccine is there, because this is something that can be done now.)”
Source: VP Leni Robredo official Facebook page, BISErbisyong LENI – Episode 185, Nov. 22, 2020, watch from 35:42 to 38:13
For now, what is certain is the DOH’s initial list of hospitals in the National Capital Region, Cavite, Cebu City, and Davao City — 12 in total as of Oct. 9 — that will be participating in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Solidarity Trial for COVID-19 vaccines. The study is scheduled to start in December, Vergeire said in an Oct. 26 media forum.
The complete list of areas and sectors will be released to the public once agreements between the government and the different companies participating in the trial have been finalized, the health spokesperson said in the Nov. 23 briefing.
In early November, Duterte named Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. as the country’s vaccine czar. Galvez also serves as the chief implementer of the National Action Plan to contain, isolate, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. (See: VERA FILES FACT SHEET: The vaccine czar, explained)
DOH said it is aiming to immunize at least 3% to 20% of the population through WHO’s COVAX facility, a global initiative for providing countries equitable access to safe COVID-19 vaccines. Among the prioritized sectors are health workers, indigent populations, and senior citizens, as recommended by WHO.
“Selling of unregistered vaccines is prohibited. These products have not gone through the registration process of the FDA and have not been issued with proper authorization. The agency cannot guarantee their quality, safety, and efficacy,” the advisory reads.
RTV Malacañang Official Youtube Channel, Meeting on COVID-19 Concerns and Talk to the People on COVID-19 10/14/2020, Oct. 14, 2020
Presidential Communications Operations Office, Press Briefing of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, Nov. 23, 2020
Department of Health, DOH Beat COVID-19 Media Forum | November 23, 2020, Nov. 23, 2020
Vice President Leni Robredo Official Facebook Page, BISErbisyong LENI – Episode 185, Nov. 22, 2020
Department of Science and Technology, DOST PREPARES FOR WHO SOLIDARITY TRIALS, Oct. 9, 2020
Department of Health, DOH Beat COVID-19 Media Forum | October 26, 2020, Oct. 26, 2020
RTV Malacañang Official Youtube Channel, Situation Briefing and Talk to the People on Typhoon ‘Rolly’ 11/2/2020, Nov. 2, 2020
VERA Files, VERA FILES FACT SHEET: The vaccine czar, explained, Nov. 10, 2020
World Health Organization, 172 countries and multiple candidate vaccines engaged in COVID-19 vaccine Global Access Facility, Aug. 24, 2020
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, COVAX explained, Sept. 3, 2020
House of Representatives, COMMITTEE ON PEOPLE’S PARTICIPATION, Nov. 18, 2020
World Health Organization, WHO SAGE ROADMAP FOR PRIORITIZING USES OF COVID-19 VACCINES IN THE CONTEXT OF LIMITED SUPPLY, Nov. 13, 2020
Department of Health, DOH Beat COVID-19 Media Forum | October 19, 2020, Oct. 19, 2020
Inquirer.net, Sotto: Duterte aware Lacson, Romualdez were vaccinated vs COVID-19, Nov. 23, 2020
ABS-CBN News, Romualdez told Duterte he availed of COVID-19 vaccine: Sotto, Nov. 23, 2020
CNN Philippines, Sotto says he got info on alleged vaccination from Romualdez, Nov. 23, 2020
Food and Drug Administration, FDA Advisory No. 2020-1395-A || REITERATION OF FDA ADVISORY NO. 2020-1395 TO TAKE EXTREME CAUTION ON THE PURCHASE AND USE OF UNREGISTERED VACCINES FOR COVID-19, Nov. 24, 2020
Food and Drug Administration, REITERATION OF FDA ADVISORY NO. 2020-1395 TO TAKE EXTREME CAUTION ON THE PURCHASE AND USE OF UNREGISTERED VACCINES FOR COVID-19, Nov. 24, 2020
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)