Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan on Thursday recommended that the national government expedite negotiations with pharmaceutical firms whose products have already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Pangilinan noted that public clamor was key to allowing local government units (LGUs) to secure their own coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine.
“Buti naman at pwede nang bumili ng bakuna para sa kanilang LGU ang ating mga local executives. Ito ay bunga rin ng pagiging vocal natin, ng mga opisyal ng LGUs, at ng taumbayan mismo sa mga kailangang gawin para mapabilis ang pagsugpo sa Covid,” Pangilinan said. (It is good that LGUs local executives are now allowed to buy vaccines. This is the result of our insistence, along with LGU executives and the people, that they themselves would find ways to hasten the defeat of COVID-19.)
On Wednesday night, President Duterte said that the national government would not interfere with the efforts of LGUs to procure their own vaccines for their constituents, granting them freedom to choose their brand of their choice.
Pangilinan, who had pushed for the Senate of the Whole committee hearings on the vaccine roll-out, has insisted on involving LGUs and the private sector for a swift and efficient whole-of-nation approach in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With the FDA’s approval, the government should begin negotiations with Pfizer for the purchase of its vaccine. Pfizer should be on top of the government’s list for purchase over other vaccines that have yet to get the emergency use authorization, (EUA),” he said.
“Nakalaan na ang pondo sa 2021 national budget, galing sa Bayanihan 2 at mga grant at utang na pwede nating ipambili ng bakuna para sa proteksyon ng mga Pilipino, lalo na ‘yung pinaka vulnerable,” he added. (Funds to buy the vaccines are in the 2021 national budget, Bayanihan 2, grants and loans to inoculate and protect Filipinos, particularly the most vulnerable.)
At the same time, Pangilinan said tomorrow’s hearing would still aim to ensure that the vaccine roll-out is efficient and flawless.
“Tutukan natin itong roll-out, sa PGH [Philippine General Hospital] February 20 raw meron na. Ano’ng mangyayari? There are 4,000 plus vaccination centers. Are they ready? Have they been trained? Are they capacitated? Or baka naman mangyari dito 4,000 in paper, pero kulang ang training, kulang ang equipment, kulang ang alcohol, kulang ang mga syringe, etc. This is precisely why we will have a second hearing,” he said. (We will watch the vaccine roll-out. At PGH, it will reportedly have vaccine by February 20. What will happen? Will the reported 4,000 plus vaccination centers be on paper? Do they lack training, equipment, alcohol, syringe, etc.?)
“Unless we address the vaccine roll-out effectively, we will not be able to gain the confidence na kinakailangan…At kung walang kumpyansa sa Covid [response], hindi manunumbalik ang sigla ng ekonomiya. Mananatili ang problema ng gutom, ng kawalan ng trabaho at kita. At ‘yan ang dapat nating tutukan dahil we owe it to the people,” he added. (If there is no confidence in COVID response, our economy will not recover. The problem of hunger, lack of jobs and livelihood will stay. That is what we should target because we owe it to the people.)
Pangilinan also urged the Department of Health t(DOH) to collaborate with LGUs and the private sector to achieve its inoculation targets. He recommended that while both the parties can act in full autonomy, they submit reports to the DOH.
“Ano ang solusyon? Isama ang LGU sa network, isama ang private sector at mag-coordinate. Whole-of-nation approach ang kinakailangan dito, bigyan ng dagdag na ngipin at makinarya ang DOH. Dahil kung DOH lang at national government ang gagawa nito eh baka maulit tayo sa dati,” the senator said of the last 11 months of dismal performance in the control of the spread of the virus. (What is the solution? Include the LGUs to the network and the private sector and coordinate. We need a Whole of Nation approach, give teeth and equipment to the DOH. What happened in the past will recur if the DOH and the national government do it alone.)
Pangilinan cited lapses made by the DOH last year when it failed to get the support of LGUs and the private sector in testing during the early stages of the pandemic.
“Bigyan ng mas malaking papel at kapangyarihan ang LGUs at private sector kasama ang DOH. Hindi natin isinasantabi ang DOH [pero] kailangan coordinated. Kung DOH lang, sabi nga ng isang senador, alam niyo ba noong umpisa ng Covid ang pwede lang mag testing ay RITM (Research Institute for Tropical Medicine) dahil nga yun ang patakaran?” Pangilinan said. (Let us give a bigger role and power of LGUs and the private sector in partnerhip with DOH. We cannot let the DOH do it alone. Coordination is needed. Before, it was only the RITM was allowed to test because that was the rule?)
“Eh ‘di kung hindi mo sinama ang private sector doon ‘eh ‘di aabutin tayo ng siyam-siyam bago ma-test ang critical number of millions. Hindi mangyayari yun unless nandoon yung private sector at nandoon ‘yung mga LGUs,” he added. (It will be difficult to test a critical number of millions if you do not include the private sector. That will not happen unless the private sector and LGUs are there.)
Invited to attend in tomorrow’s hearing are: Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Vaccine Czar; Health Secretary Francisco Duque; Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe from the World Health Organization; Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez; and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.;
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado; Science Secretary Fortunato De La Peña, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Aduardo Año; Secretary Vivencio Dizon; Food and Drug Administration Director General Ronaldo Domingo; and Intellectual Property Director General Rowel Barba;
Invited medical experts from the private sector are: Dr. Benito Atienza, president of the Philippine Medical Association; Ms. Rosie De Leon, RN; and representatives from leading pharmaceuticals Zuellig Pharma Philippines, Pfizer Philippines, and Unilab Inc.; and representatives from storage and distribution company Cold Chain Association of the Philippines.