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Health chief denies he ‘dropped the ball’

Francisco Duque III
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

CLARIFYING the alleged delays in the progress of the vaccine deal with Pfizer, the Department of Health yesterday maintained that it has acted with urgency and in accordance with the protocols of the government.

The DOH stressed that while it wants to expedite the process, there are systems and protocols in place and they cannot cut corners.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III
Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said that from the time the DOH was instructed to sign on behalf of the Philippine Government, the DOH legal and technical teams worked closely with Pfizer to finalize the agreement and negotiate on several contentious provisions. After a thorough review process with the concerned agencies, including the Office of the President, the Confidential Disclosure Agreement was signed the same day it was finalized.

“There is no such thing as dropping the ball. Negotiations are on-going. In fact Sec. Galvez signed a CDA with Pfizer in November. He will be in the best position to answer questions on the status of our negotiations with them,” he stressed.

The health chief gave assurances that the DOH, as a member of the Vaccine Cluster under Secretary Carlito Galvez, is doing everything to ensure that the country has access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

“We would like to remind everyone that while we wait for the vaccine, let us not be complacent. Let us continue adhering to the minimum public health standards and let the gift of safety be our present to our loved ones this holiday season,” Duque said, reiterating his earlier call.

‘No major lapse’

President Rodrigo Duterte again stood by the health secretary as he had done when Duque came under fire from critics.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the President does not feel Duque committed a “major lapse” concerning the procurement of the anti-COVID virus of Pfizer.

“I think the overall demeanor of the President eh wala naman po siyang nakikita na major lapse dahil ang pinaguusapan po ay kontrata at hindi naman po abogado si Secretary Duque,” Roque told Malacanang reporters.

He added that no damage was done as the procurement bid is still ongoing.