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Recto proposes appointment of vaccine czar 

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Malacañang Palace welcomed the suggestion of Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto for President Rodrigo Duterte to appoint a "vaccine czar" to ensure that the Philippines has access to a potential coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) once it is available, according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Recto’s suggestion was “very well taken” but recalled that the President had already appointed a vaccine czar around two months ago.

“The suggestion is very well taken. In fact, two months ago I recall na si Presidente may itinalagang vaccine czar (the President already designated a vaccine czar),” he said in a Palace press briefing.

Roque, however, explained that the person named vaccine czar was “hesitant” about publicizing the appointment and would rather wait for the President to make the announcement.

“Yung natalagang vaccine czar is hesitant when I asked him if I could remind the public that he has been designated vaccine czar kasi baka hindi na raw po naalala ni Presidente (The person designated as vaccine czar is hesitant when I asked him if I could remind the public that he has been designated because the President might not have remembered it) so he would like to wait for the President to make the announcement anew,” he said.

He agreed with Recto that a vaccine czar is needed to begin setting up a “supply-to-syringe cold chain” as the vaccines have to be moved and stored in freezing temperatures in a tropical country.

“Malinaw po ‘yan yung (It’s clear that we need a ) vaccine czar as Sen. Recto said is to make sure na meron tayong (that we have the) capability to import and distribute including provision for cold storage,” he added.

The Duterte administration earlier named various czars to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bases Conversion and Development Authority chief Vince Dizon was appointed testing czar, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar as isolation czar, Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong as contact tracing czar and Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega as treatment czar.

Meanwhile, Roque cited the proposal of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination Director Dr. Lulu Bravo to establish a National Immunization Technical Advisory Group to make decisions on the regulatory approval on the use of Covid-19 vaccines.

“As far as yung (the) regulatory approval naman for the use of the vaccine, si Dr. Lulu Bravo just recommended that it be left to a body para hindi lang iisang tao yung nagdedesisyon (so that it won’t be one person making the decision),” he said.

As of Oct. 20, Bravo said that there are 156 potential Covid-19 vaccines in the pre-clinical trial stage which means they have not yet been tested on humans.

She said phase 3 or the last stage of clinical trials last for six months to one year. There are currently 10 potential vaccines now on phase 3 trials.

Six potential vaccines have acquired emergency or limited-use approval by national authorities, she added.

Last Oct. 15, Roque assured that potential vaccines would be affordable to many Filipinos even if the national government could not provide free immunization to all Filipinos.

An estimated PHP2 billion will be spent to inoculate the priority population which includes the poorest of the poor, police, military, and front-liners, he added.

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