Pia calls for inquiry on COVID-19 vaccine plan

Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Monday (December 14) filed a resolution calling for a Senate inquiry on the status of the country’s procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and other medical supplies needed for inoculation, as well as the implementation of the country’s vaccination program against the novel coronavirus.

“There is a need to review and examine our existing policies and programs to expedite the purchase of [COVID-19] vaccines and the necessary medical supplies to inoculate the desired number of the population, while ensuring that other health protocols necessary to deal with COVID-19 continue to be improved and implemented,” Cayetano’s Senate Resolution No. 597 read.

The senator said “it is critical to monitor the status of the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies as well as the implementation of a national COVID-19 vaccination program”, to effectively protect Filipinos’ health and help the country build back better.

“Even in the United States, there is much concern about rolling out the vaccine efficiently as it is not only an issue of coordination between the government, healthcare professionals, and healthcare systems but also the involvement of local clinics and the general population because a single misstep may lead to the disruption of the entire system,” the resolution added.

The senator further pointed out that while there are still vaccines undergoing trials, other nations have already secured enough by the end of 2021 for “nearly three times their current population.”

“The United States closed a deal with Pfizer as early as July for 100 million vials, and has recently bought another 100 million from Moderna, while Canada, with the population of 38 million, has agreed to buy up to 76 million doses from Pfizer, and 414 million from other vaccine manufacturers,” she noted through her resolution.

Meanwhile, according to the National Task Force Against COVID-19, the Philippine government could secure advance procurement of the vaccines by the end of next year and get 30 to 50 million doses once they are rolled out.

This, Cayetano cited, would cover only 14 to 23 percent of our population, despite the World Health Organization’s pronouncement that 60 to 70 percent of a country’s population need to acquire immunity to break the chain of transmission.

Apart from COVID-19 vaccines, the senator said there are also other expenses that the government needs to prepare for to ensure the success of the country’s fight against the pandemic.

During the plenary deliberations on the Department of Health’s proposed 2021 budget, Cayetano as Senior Vice Chair of the Senate Finance Committee said the discussion and, consequently, the budgetary allocation should not be limited to the purchase of the vaccines. She pointed out that allocations for other components of the vaccination process – such as storage, training of vaccinators, transportation, waste disposal, health promotion, surveillance, medical supplies like syringes and needles, and other costs for the roll out of the vaccination program – must also be carefully taken into consideration.

Moreover, Cayetano stressed that another concern that should be taken into consideration is people’s willingness to be vaccinated. As such, she said an effective information campaign to properly educate the public on the importance of vaccines and the necessary funds for such are also essential.

“Consideration for all these other components of the vaccination process should go together with our efforts to purchase the vaccines, to guarantee a more holistic approach in the next phase of our COVID-19 battle,” Cayetano concluded. #

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