PUBLIC CLAMOR was key to allowing local government units to secure their own Covid vaccine, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Thursday, even as he recommended that the national government expedite negotiations with pharmaceutical firms already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“Buti naman at pwede nang bumili ng bakuna para sa kanilang LGU ang ating mga local executives. Ito ay bunga rin ng pagiging vocal natin, ng mga opisyal ng LGUs, at ng taumbayan mismo sa mga kailangang gawin para mapabilis ang pagsugpo sa Covid,” said Pangilinan.
On Wednesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte said that the national government will not interfere with the efforts of LGUs to procure their own vaccines for their constituents, granting them freedom to choose their brand of their choice.
Pangilinan, who had pushed for the Senate of the Whole committee hearings on the vaccine roll-out, has insisted on involving LGUs and the private sector for a swift and efficient whole-of-nation approach in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With the FDA’s approval, the government should begin negotiations with Pfizer for the purchase of its vaccine. Pfizer should be on top of the government’s list for purchase over other vaccines that have yet to get the emergency use authorization,” he said.
“Nakalaan na ang pondo sa 2021 national budget, galing sa Bayanihan 2 at mga grant at utang na pwede nating ipambili ng bakuna para sa proteksyon ng mga Pilipino, lalo na ‘yung pinaka vulnerable,” he added.
At the same time, Pangilinan said Friday’s hearing would still aim to ensure that the vaccine roll-out is efficient and flawless.
“Tutukan natin itong roll-out, sa PGH [Philippine General Hospital] February 20 raw meron na. Ano’ng mangyayari? There are 4,000 plus vaccination centers. Are they ready? Have they been trained? Are they capacitated? Or baka naman mangyari dito 4,000 in paper, pero kulang ang training, kulang ang equipment, kulang ang alcohol, kulang ang mga syringe, etc. This is precisely why we will have a second hearing,” he said.
“Unless we address the vaccine roll-out effectively, we will not be able to gain the confidence na kinakailangan…At kung walang kumpyansa sa Covid [response], hindi manunumbalik ang sigla ng ekonomiya. Mananatili ang problema ng gutom, ng kawalan ng trabaho at kita. At ‘yan ang dapat nating tutukan dahil we owe it to the people,” he added.
Pangilinan also urges the Department of Health to collaborate with LGUs and the private sector to achieve its inoculation targets. He recommended that while both the parties can act in full autonomy, they submit reports to the DOH.
“Ano ang solusyon? Isama ang LGU sa network, isama ang private sector at mag-coordinate. Whole-of-nation approach ang kinakailangan dito, bigyan ng dagdag na ngipin at makinarya ang DOH. Dahil kung DOH lang at national government ang gagawa nito eh baka maulit tayo sa dati,” the senator said of the last 11 months of dismal performance in the control of the spread of the virus.
Pangilinan cited lapses made by the DOH last year when it failed to get the support of LGUs and the private sector in testing during the early stages of the pandemic.
“Bigyan ng mas malaking papel at kapangyarihan ang LGUs at private sector kasama ang DOH. Hindi natin isinasantabi ang DOH [pero] kailangan coordinated. Kung DOH lang, sabi nga ng isang senador, alam niyo ba noong umpisa ng Covid ang pwede lang mag testing ay RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) dahil nga yun ang patakaran?” Pangilinan said.
“Eh ‘di kung hindi mo sinama ang private sector doon ‘eh ‘di aabutin tayo ng siyam-siyam bago ma-test ang critical number of millions. Hindi mangyayari yun unless nandoon yung private sector at nandoon ‘yung mga LGUs,” he added.
Invited to attend Friday’s hearing are: Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Vaccine Czar; Health Secretary Francisco Duque; Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe from the World Health Organization; Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez; and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.; Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado; Science Secretary Fortunato De La Peña, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Aduardo Año; Secretary Vivencio Dizon; Food and Drug Administration Director General Ronaldo Domingo; and Intellectual Property Director General Rowel Barba; Invited medical experts from the private sector are: Dr. Benito Atienza, president of the Philippine Medical Association; Ms. Rosie De Leon, RN; and representatives from leading pharmaceuticals Zuellig Pharma Philippines, Pfizer Philippines, and Unilab Inc.; and representatives from storage and distribution company Cold Chain Association of the Philippines.