DOH must waive COVID vaccines’ NDA – solon

January 31, 2023 Camille P. Balagtas 214 views

SENATOR Risa Hontiveros, on Tuesday, January 31, is calling on the Department of Health (DOH) to “waive” the existing vaccine non-disclosure agreements (NDA) on COVID vaccines, saying that, in the name of transparency, the NDAs with private manufacturers have “outlived their purpose.”

The statement comes a day before the Senate holds an executive session to discuss the information stipulated in the NDAs.

“At this point, COVID vaccine NDAs are useless and have outlived their purpose dahil tapos na ang isyu ng ‘price competition.’ It is now simply a violation of the public’s right to know how our money was spent. NDAs should no longer stand in the way of accountability and transparency,” she said.

The senator says that after an approximate 44 million vaccine wastage, it is “high time” the real cost is disclosed to the public.

“There is too much unnecessary secrecy surrounding this. Hindi naman dapat ituring na state secret ang presyo ng bakuna dahil pera ng bayan ang ginamit para ipambili nito. Pinipilay lang ng mga NDA na ito ang mandato ng COA (Commission on Audit) na usisain kung nakasulit ba tayo sa bilyun-bilyong pisong inilabas natin noong panahon ng pandemiya,” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros then thanked the Department of Health (DOH) for submitting initial documents so that COA could begin its audit.

However, she flagged the fact that the submission only covered the loan agreements with Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank (WB), and those with limited permissions from select vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

“What about the agreements with other vaccine manufacturers, like Sinovac? Bulto-bultong bakuna pa naman mula sa Sinovac ang binili ng nakaraang administrasyon para sa national vaccination program. Paano magsasagawa ng complete audit ang COA kung patuloy na magtatago ang mga kompanya sa likod ng NDA clause ng kontrata?” she asked.

“If we allow this to happen now, it is precedent-setting. Baka sa susunod na pandemiya mauulit na naman ito, at posibleng maabuso,” she added.

The senator also said that this non-compliance of foreign vaccine manufacturers with the country’s government processes is “alarming.”

“Puwede bang i-undermine ng pribadong sektor ang ating konstitusyon dahil lang mayroon silang NDA sa government contracts? Of course not. Panahon na para makipagtulungan ang mga vaccine manufacturers sa audit ng COA,” she said.

“I stand by my call to completely release all information with regards to the COVID-19 vaccine procurement to the public. I have been saying this for over a year. There is no reason for this to be done behind closed doors. We deserve to know how every centavo was spent, lalo na ngayong panahon ng resesyon. Managot ang dapat managot, at huwag magtago sa likod ng NDA,” she concluded.