COVID-19 Vaccine Cluster formed; duties of Vaccine Czar spelled out

With the designation of the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. as Vaccine Czar, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Thursday, November 5, restructured the NTF to establish the COVID-19 Vaccine Cluster with the Vaccine Czar as Chair.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Cluster is separate from the Response Cluster. It has Executive Committee Members and Advisory Groups, Different Task Groups, with specific roles and responsibilities. As a result of this restructuring, the COVID-19 Immunization Program Management Organizational Structure, which was approved under IATF Resolution No. 82 last October 26, 2020 was abolished.

The duties of the Vaccine Czar are as follows: stewardship, where he will coordinate across various agencies, actors, and technical working groups on behalf of the DOH; safety and efficacy, where he will facilitate the early issuance of the Certificate of Product Registration with the Food and Drugs Administration; cost-effectiveness, where he will facilitate the timely conduct of Health Technology Assessment (HTA), as necessary; price negotiation, where he will activate price negotiation board subject to HTA’s cost-effective price; prioritization, where he will facilitate consensus on prioritization of vaccine recipients; delivery system, where he will facilitate decision on whether to use private system, develop protocol on accessing vaccines and registration with primary health care providers with health care provider networks (HCPNs), practice guidelines; and surveillance, where he will set up Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI).

Also part of the duties of the Vaccine Czar are financing and co-payments, where he will coordinate with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and legislators, as may be necessary, on budget and co-payment ceilings; procurement, where he will facilitate procurement through various mechanisms allowed under existing laws, rules and regulations through bilateral, multilateral and other financial modalities; supply and logistics movement, where he will enter into agreement with third party warehouse and logistics provider, as necessary; information systems, where he will establish the information and technology infrastructure to capture supply chain information as well as to capture system for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine; and risk communication and community engagement where he will oversee vaccine risk communication and social preparation and act as spokesperson for vaccine matters.

The IATF likewise approved the Philippine National COVID-19 Roadmap and Implementation Plan.

In the same meeting, the IATF provisionally adopted the Department of Health (DOH)’s Revised Omnibus Interim Guidelines on Prevention, Detection, Isolation, Treatment and Reintegration Strategies for COVID-19.

The general principles of the guidelines are as follows: strict observance and implementation of minimum public health standards; rational assessment based on symptoms and exposure; facility-based quarantine and isolation, if conditions allow; completion of 14-day quarantine for close contacts of probable and confirmed cases and 10-day isolation for suspect, probable and confirmed cases; using the right test for the right reason; and understanding the use and limitations of available testing technologies.

In addition, the IATF ratified the Joint Memorandum Circular of the DOH, Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the NTF on the Operational Guidelines of the COVID-19 and Other Emerging Infectious Disease Response in Public Sector Workplaces. (PCOO)