Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Tuesday that authorities must choose between prolonging the COVID-19 outbreak in the country or having to deal with the side effects of the vaccine for speeding up the government’s immunization program.
Sotto said this was his advice to National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. and other officials after senators appealed to them to allow local government units (LGUs) and private sector to acquire their own supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to help in the inoculation of the population.
“Sabi ko hanapan natin ng paraan…Kasi nga, you are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea…Sabi ko ano bang gusto natin? ‘Yong pandemic nandyan, maraming namamatay, maraming nahihirapan at nasisira ekonomiya. Or payagan na natin sila sa immunization?” Sotto said in an interview over radio DZBB. (I told them we must find a way. Because you are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. I asked them what would we want? For the pandemic to remain, when many are dying, many are suffering, and our economy is affected. Or allow them (LGUs) to proceed with immunization?)
“Baka raw may safety concerns, may side effect. Anong gusto niyo doon, ‘yong may side effect o may pandemic? Hindi ba? Kako, between the devil and the deep blue sea, you’ve got to choose (They said there are safety concerns, there might be side effects. What do you want, that there is a side effect or a persisting pandemic? Which of it? I said, between the devil and the deep blue sea, you’ve got to choose),” he added.
During the Senate Committee of the Whole’s hearing on Monday, Galvez said that the majority of the pharmaceutical companies that they are dealing with are not keen about directly negotiating with LGUs and private institutions.
Only two of the seven vaccine manufacturers, Astrazeneca and Novavax, agreed to enter into a tripartite agreement with LGUs and the private sector, he said.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) director-general Eric Domingo also explained that some manufacturers also do not want to take responsibility for the use of their vaccines since their products are still undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials.
Domingo said only the national government could take responsibility through the emergency use authorization (EUA) which allows the use of products that are still under development. The grant of EUA does not equate to the vaccines being an “approved product,” he said.
Sotto said senators are willing to come up with legislation that will help streamline the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines for LGUs and private firms.
“Iisip din kami ng paraan. Kailangan niyo ng batas, bibigyan namin kayo ng batas (We will also find a solution. If you want a law, we will give you a law),” he said.
The Senate chief said they will raise the same issue when the Senate inquiry resumes on Friday, January 15, with hopes of getting a concrete solution from the executive department.