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Solon lauds move allowing LGUs to procure vaccines

SENATOR Francis Tolentino on Thursday lauded President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to allow local government units (LGUs) to procure COVID-19 vaccines under a tripartite agreement among the LGUs, the national government, and pharmaceutical firms.

Tolentino said this will ensure that all Filipinos, even those who are not among the priority list of the national government, are inoculated.

According to Tolentino, vaccinating the most number of Filipinos possible will be an important step to achieving herd immunity against COVID-19.

Early this week, Metro Manila mayors bared their plans and budgets for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for their constituents.

The proactive approach by LGUs should not only be lauded but actively encouraged. There is more than sufficient legal basis for LGUs to procure COVID-19 vaccines for their own constituents,” Tolentino said.

According to the senator, under the Local Government Code (LGC), LGUs have devolved powers which include the provision of basic health services compliant with standards and criteria set by the DOH.

This devolution of power is consistent with the principle of decentralization and local autonomy enshrined in our Constitution, laws, and jurisprudence.

Earlier, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing that any vaccine given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may only be procured by the national government.

She also said that a vaccine will only be available in the market if it receives a certificate of product registration under the regular process.

Last December 2020, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte issued Executive Order No. 121, granting authority to the Director General of the FDA to issue EUA for COVID-19 drugs and vaccines. The FDA has since issued Circular No. 2020-036 prescribing the guidelines in the implementation of EO 121.

According to Tolentino, there is nothing in current laws nor in EO 121 or FDA Circular No. 2020-036 prohibiting LGUs from procuring vaccines or limiting the procurement of vaccines to the national government only.

Moreover, last December 27, 2020, Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said that if LGUs want to include their constituents who are not considered priority recipients of the COVID-19 vaccination program of the national government, they could procure vaccines approved by the FDA to vaccinate their constituents.