‘Suntok sa buwan’: Drilon cites stumbling blocks to gov’t Covid-19 vaccination plan

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Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon described the government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan as “suntok sa buwan”, citing stumbling blocks that could make its target of securing 148 million doses of vaccines and inoculating 70 million Filipinos by the end of 2021 simply difficult to achieve.

“Parang suntok sa buwan ang vaccination program lalo na yung sinasabi nila na 148 million doses within the year. The arrival of the vaccines is not even definite. How can they say that they will be able to purchase 148 million doses by the end of 2021 when up to now, we haven’t given any Emergency Use Authorization to any vaccine and we have not been able to raise, through loans, all the needed amount for the purchase of the vaccines?” Drilon said.

The Food and Drug Administration said it is ready to issue an emergency use authorization (EUA) within the week.

“I am not reassured in the slightest by what I heard. To be honest, I am more confused now. The government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan fails to provide the public the assurance they need from the government,” Drilon said.

“The plan is good on paper. The plan is filled with uncertainties and it leaves too much to chance,” he added.

Drilon said the government’s target of securing 148 million doses within the year is simply difficult to achieve given what Sec. Carlito Galvez said that 80% of global supply has already been procured by rich countries.

“If only the government was able to make advanced purchases last year, similar to other low-and-middle income countries such as Indonesia and Brazil, maybe we would have a better chance of securing these 148 million doses of vaccines this year,” he added.

The minority leader added the funding is not even guaranteed at this point as the government has not fully secured the necessary loans to fund the P70 billion in the unprogrammed fund for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

The government has allotted P82.5 billion for the purchase of the vaccines but only P12.5 billion is in the programmed appropriation – P2.5 billion will come from the General Appropriations Act and another P10 billion under the extended Bayanihan 2.

Drilon had previously likened the funding for Covid-19 vaccine to an unfunded check as there’s no definite source of funds.

The Senate chief fiscalizer said that if the government wants to achieve its target of inoculating 70 million Filipinos within the year, it should allow the local government units and the private sector to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies for the purchase of the vaccines that they have given an emergency use authorization.

“They have a better chance of achieving their targets if they lift the restriction that they set that prevents local chief executives and the private sector from buying vaccines directly from the manufacturers,” Drilon emphasized.

“It will facilitate a speedy purchase of the much-needed vaccines. I believe there is a consensus among the senators insofar as lifting this restriction is concerned,” he added.

Drilon also pointed out the high vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos which, he added, poses a serious risk to the success of the inoculation program.

A Pulse Asia survey revealed that nearly 50% of Filipinos would not get vaccinated out of safety issues while an OCTA Research finding showed that only 25 percent of Metro Manila residents are willing to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

During the Senate’s inquiry into the government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan, Drilon called for the government to be “transparent and truthful” about the process to build up public confidence in the coronavirus vaccine.

“Transparency is a key driver of public confidence in vaccines. The lack of access to information fuels doubts and confusion among the public,” he said.

Drilon had earlier warned that the reluctance to participate in Covid-19 immunization program, if not immediately addressed, will spell trouble in the future and can jeopardize efforts to contain the pandemic. SENATE.GOV.PH