Senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go called on government to ensure the availability, accessibility, and affordability of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially for the poor and vulnerable sectors, during an interview after extending assistance to typhoon victims in San Pablo City, Laguna on Saturday, November 7.
“Dapat sagutin ito ng gobyerno, lalong-lalo na sa mga mahihirap nating kababayan na wala pong inaasahan at wala pong access kung saan kukuha ng vaccine,” began Go.
“Kami ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte, uunahin namin ang lahat ng mga mahihirap, lahat ng mga vulnerable sector para makabalik na tayo sa normal nating pamumuhay. Basta safe na ‘yung vaccine. And, rest assured, as the committee chair, isusulong ko, uunahin ko ang kalusugan ng bawat Pilipino,” he continued.
Go reiterated his commitment to introduce and push for measures that promote and protect the public’s health. The Senator authored and sponsored the Malasakit Centers Act of 2019 which was enacted into law late last year to provide convenient access to medical and financial assistance for poor and indigent patients.
He has also filed bills to improve access and strengthen healthcare services such as Senate Bill No. 398 which would expand the coverage of the existing mandatory basic immunization program of the government, and SBN 1226 which would ease the process for increasing the bed capacity and capabilities of Department of Health-run hospitals.
When asked about the President’s choice as the vaccine czar, the Senator expressed his support for the designation of National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. as vaccine czar.
“Punong-puno na ang Department of Health. Overloaded na ang trabaho ng ating health officials headed by Secretary Fancisco Duque at wala na pong tulog. Overloaded na sila sa pandemyang ito so dapat mayroon pong in charge sa vaccine,” he explained.
“Buo ang aking tiwala kay General Galvez. Kailangan natin ng tao dyan na may alam sa logistics, supply chain, at crisis management. Tulungan natin siya,” he said previously.
He stressed the need for a single chain of command to ensure the vaccine’s orderly and swift distribution to the public. As vaccine czar, the former military chief shall be primarily responsible for the purchase, negotiation, manufacture, production and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available.
“Hindi kailangan [ng health expert] kasi distribution, financial ang kailangan nito at well-coordinated dapat ito sa baba sa pagdidistribute nitong vaccine,” said Go.
“[Dapat] handa ang accessibility, affordability, mga storage ng vaccine at saka financial scheme kung paano babayaran ito. Makikipagcoordinate [siya] sa ating finance manager. Paano babayaran, saan kukunin at paano ang distribution? [Dapat] ‘yung distribution down to the level ng mga kababayan natin, lalo na sa mga lugar na walang access,” he emphasized.
Recently, Go called on the DOH and concerned agencies to develop an overall strategy for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine to the general population. He also asked government to ensure the speedy and uninterrupted supply of vaccines in the country by putting in place a national strategy to secure the supply chain for the COVID-19 vaccine, medicines and other related health commodities.
Go specifically urged authorities to prepare cold storage facilities and other equipment needed for the inventory, use and distribution of the vaccines.
“So, kailangan natin ng point person. Ito ang vaccine czar natin at malaki ang tiwala ko kay Secretary Galvez na kaya niya pong mamuno dito. Sanay po siya sa gyera. Remember itong COVID-19, this is also a war pero against unseen enemy na di natin nakikita,” he continued.
“Kakaiba itong gyera na ito dapat extra cautious tayo. Dapat extra careful tayo sa gyerang ito kaya dapat well-coordinated ang lahat with Secretary Galvez. Malaki ang tiwala namin ni Pangulong Duterte na kapag nandyan na ang safe na vaccine, maayos dapat ang distribution,” he reassured.
Until then, the Senator asked the public to continue complying with the government-issued health and safety protocols by wearing masks and face shields, observing social distancing, and frequently washing their hands, among others, to prevent the spread of the virus.
“Huwag natin pabayaan ang mga ordinaryong Pilipino na kailangan na makabalik sa normal na pamumuhay upang maibangon mula sa kahirapan ang kanilang pamilya,” he added.