Barbers calls Duque grossly insensitive

Published December 18, 2020, 2:39 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers has described the inaction from Department of Health (DoH) Secretary Francisco Duque III as grossly insensitive, which has effectively scuttled the Philippines’ supposed early supply of the Pfizer-made COVID-19 vaccine.

(Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers’ Office / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

“I believe his inaction showed gross insensitivity toward the Filipinos who have been afflicted with COVID-19 as well as the relatives of nearly 9,000 who have died from the disease,” said the solon, chairman of the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs.

Duque has drawn a lot of flak for his failure to work on the documentary requirements in securing local supply for the Pfizer vaccine, which has been deemed 95 percent effective in its Phase 3 trials.

The Philippines was on track to receive 10 million doses of the particular vaccine by January, but Duque reportedly didn’t accomplish the needed Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA) on its deal with the United States.

“It was known for months that the Pfizer vaccine was among the most promising vaccines in development due to its high efficacy rate based on Phase 3 trials. For me, this is enough reason to prioritize the procurement of local supply,” Barbers said.

Duque has since said that he simply chose to be “prudent and cautious” with the Pfizer vaccine, which is a novel or new vaccine.

“Secretary Duque has invoked prudence and cautiousness? I also find it ironic and and hard to stomach,” Barbers said.

“How can he say that when he was not even prudent and cautious enough to spot and stop the shenanigans over at PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corp.)?” asked Barbers, alluding to the headline-grabbing “mafia” allegations of months past in the state-run health insurance firm.

Duque is chairman of the board at PhilHealth.