In order to convince half of the population who are unwilling to be vaccinated, the Philippines should not settle for “pwede na” or passing efficacy and safety standards, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Sunday.
“Bukod sa 47 percent na ayaw magpabakuna, meron pang 27 percent na di siguradong magpapabakuna. Kaya kailangan natin ang pinakaligtas at pinakamabisang bakuna para sa ating mga kababayan. Hindi pwedeng ‘pwede na’,” Pangilinan said.
He said scientific evidence should be the only basis for the use of vaccines on Filipinos: “While we appreciate the gesture, the donation of 500,000 Chinese vaccines should not pressure FDA and HTAC to approve its use. Science, data, and the results of clinical trials should be the basis and not “political goodwill’,” referring to the Food and Drug Administration and the Health Technology Assessment Council.
At the second hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the country’s vaccination program on Friday (January 15), senators asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to detail the vaccine roll-out plan after some government officials released conflicting information to the public.
The senator who pushed for the Committee of the Whole hearings on the government’s vaccine roll-out plan pointed out the different numbers of vaccines and the different vaccination schedules that have been bandied about.
“Wala talagang malinaw na bilang kung ilang bakuna ang made-deliver sa natin at matuturok na by middle of February, kahit na mula sa Covax facility. Merong sinasabing one million sa March, at two million sa April. Pero nang tinanong natin ang IATF tungkol sa vaccine target from February to April, wala raw ‘definitive numbers’, kahit yung sa Covax,” he said.
Covax facility is a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of eventual Covid-19 vaccines; the Philippines is part of this facility.
Pangilinan wants the Senate to receive a regular report on the vaccine roll-out effort, including the targets and the list of resources to be used for it. He said these should serve as key indicators of success or failure of the vaccine roll-out.
On the separate vaccine roll-outs of local governments and the private sector, Pangilinan said best practices must be used as template and basis for giving additional resources to government officials who know the reality on the ground.
Pangilinan recalled the slow Covid response over the past 11 months, including delays in the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits.
He advised Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez to effectively engage with “the energetic and dynamic” local government units (LGUs) and the private sector, which could be his “army”, given the dismal government performance on addressing the pandemic and its effects over the last eleven months.
“I’d like you to be a general with an army. And I would like to avoid the delays experienced over the past year,” Panglinan added.
The senator stressed the need for transparency and informing the people of important decisions regarding the vaccination program.
“Mahalaga na naipapaalam natin sa ating mga kababayan na the best ang makukuha natin. Di tayo papayag sa second best para sa mga bakuna natin (A major factor is that our people are told, and that they know that we are getting the best. We are not settling for second best vaccines for our citizens given this pandemic),” Pangilinan said.
The Senate Committee of the Whole adjourned on Friday after two hearings.
Pangilinan supports Senator Panfilo Lacson’s call for a third Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on the same topic, given the “loose ends” and “hanging questions” on the government national vaccine roll-out.
As of January 16, the Philippines have reported 2,058 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the country’s total to 498,691.