By Dominique Gabriel G. Bañaga
Former congressman and now Negros Occidental Provincial Consultant on Economic Affairs Alfredo Benitez said the COVID-19 vaccines are likely to become available in the province as early as next month.
According to Benitez, he is currently in talks with National Inter-Agency Task Force vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., for the procurement of vaccines for Negros Occidental.
Benitez explained the purchase would be open to individuals and private companies in the province who would like to vaccinate their employees.
Among the vaccines that are expected to become available in the country is the Sputnik V which is produced by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Russia and China-based vaccine manufacturer Sinovac.
Benitez said both have already applied for an emergency approval with the Food and Drug Administration.
He has also convinced Negrenses, who may have reservations over the safety and effectiveness of the Sinovac vaccine, stating that it is safe as it uses live virus to stimulate the body to produce an immune response.
Vaccines coming from UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will likely become available, too, in the country by March or April of this year.
Benitez said firms in the province who wish to place orders for the vaccines may get in touch with the Negros Occidental Provincial Economic Development and Investment Center to make their reservations, adding private firms that will be purchasing the vaccines may be required to donate 50 percent of their vaccines to the national government as a form of tax.
Earlier on Monday, Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson signed a “non-disclosure agreement” with a foreign pharmaceutical company to potentially buy the vaccine it developed against COVID-19.
According to Lacson, he approved the preliminary deal with a private vaccine developer to ensure that Negros Occidental will get a supply of the vaccine early this year.
As part of the contract, Lacson explained he cannot divulge any details on the possible procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.
But he disclosed that the provincial government allocated P30 million to buy anti-coronavirus shots initially intended for medical frontliners.
“The source of funds is the Provincial Disaster Fund,” said Lacson.
The governor, however, admitted that the amount may not be enough for what the province needs.
While he expects an allocation from the national government, Lacson encouraged local government units, especially the cities, to allocate funds for the vaccine procurement./DGB, WDJ