Alarmed by the inconsistencies between the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on the vaccine roll-out, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Monday sought to clarify the deliverables in the government’s Covid vaccination program.
“Bakit dalawa ang vision kung iisa lang ang layunin? Sa DOH-specific slide, access to Covid immunization services is 60-70% of eligible Filipinos by the end of 2022. Pero ang IATF naman ay 50-70 million Filipinos by 2021. Hindi ito simpleng difference, malaking difference po yan. Iyong isa 2022, yung isa 2021,” Pangilinan said at Monday’s Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on the Covid vaccination program of the country.
Pangilinan, the principal proponent to convene the Senate Committee of the Whole to discuss the government’s vaccination program, pointed out the inconsistent statements of the DOH and the IATF on the topic.
“Sinasabi ng IATF, 128 million doses will be made available by 2021. Ang sinasabi naman ng DOH, it depends on the supply. So ano ang talagang deliverables? Is it 128 million doses by 2021, or 128 million doses by 2021 unless there is a problem with supply? Kasi kinakailangan nating malaman. Ano ba talaga ang deliverables?” he said.
According to Covid-19 Vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr., vaccine volumes are expected in the third and fourth quarter of 2021, citing delay in development that has influenced the delay on vaccine production.
“We don’t want to give our people yung false expectations na malaki. Kaya po ang ginagawa po ng DOH na worst-case scenario at best case scenario. Best-case scenario is we can inoculate 148 million. But if there is a production problem, magkakaroon po tayo ng shortfall, mapupunta po tayo ng 2021, 2022,” Galvez said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe, World Health Organization Philippines Country Representative, said that through the Covax program, at least 20% of the population is targeted to be inoculated either within the first or second quarter of this year. While the quantities aren’t yet clear, Dr. Abeyasinghe said he hopes that it will be adequate to protect at least the front-line health workers.
“Obviously, higher efficacy and lower cost should be one of the bases [for the procurement of the vaccines]. Why will we pay for a more expensive vaccine that has lower efficacy?” Pangilinan said.
In his opening statement, Pangilinan stressed the importance of transparency in the Covid vaccination program.
“It couldn’t be denied that this can arguably be considered the most important endeavor we face as a nation since World War II… Only with the support and participation of the public and all stakeholders can we ensure success. Tungkulin natin bilang lingkod-bayan ang maayos, mabilis, at bukas na pagpapatupad ng pambansang pagbabakuna kontra Covid,” Pangilinan said.
“Hindi tayo maaring magkamali. Failure is not an option,” he said.