Villanueva: Convene congressional oversight panel to review vaccine rollout

Published June 1, 2021, 4:58 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Joel Villanueva on Tuesday, June 1, appealed to his colleagues in Congress to convene the joint oversight committee to assess the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

Senator Joel Villanueva (Senate of the Philippines/MANILA BULLETIN File Photo)

Villanueva stressed the importance of reviewing the country’s vaccine rollout as noted that it will be 100 days since the government started legally inoculating Filipinos last March 1.

“June 9 will be the 100th day. It would be better if the oversight committee convenes on that day to review what has been achieved, or not, so far,” the senator said in a statement.

He said an assessment by the legislative body is urgent in the wake of “global production problems, the slow rollout, the surge in many cities”, saying these would affect the government’s rationing of its vaccine stock.

Under Republic Act No. 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act, the oversight panel shall have four members each from the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Officials reported that as of May 31, 3,974,350 people have so far received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 1,206,371 people have already received their second dose.

Villanueva noted that those fully-vaccinated represent only 1.72 percent of the 70 million targeted to be inoculated to achieve herd immunity against the deadly coronavirus.

“If the goal covers the entire population of 110 million, the fully vaccinated accounts for 1.1 percent,” he added. “This comes up to an annual vaccination speed that will cover about five percent of the entire population.”

“Are we keeping our people safe and protected at this volume and velocity of vaccination?” Villanueva asked.

He further stressed the need to iron out issues in the vaccination, urging the government to adopt and share best practices “so that more essential workers and economic frontliners can get their jab, a requisite for many of them to return to work.”

According to the him, however, only 3,035 individuals under the A4 priority group have been fully vaccinated as of May 3. “It is microscopic, as small as a coronavirus,” the chaiperson of the Senate labor committee described.

The lawmaker said the review of the joint congressional oversight panel “must cover the entire vaccination chain, from supply to syringe”, to also include storage concerns and allocation of vaccines.

Villanueva said “a vaccine outlook” is needed so the country can adjust its ground game in case supply will be tight in the coming months.

“There must be a long-term projection…We have to assess both the sectoral and geographical rollouts. If it is low and slow, how can we accelerate it?” he raised.

He also suggested that the panel likewise review whether the proposed or tentative amount for vaccine purchase in the 2022 budget was enough.

“Kaya mungkahi po natin na i-convene ang (That’s why our suggestion is to convene the) Joint Congressional Oversight Committee for us to know the real score. For us to move forward, we have to look back. Many things can be learned from looking at the rearview mirror,” Villanueva said.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said that the Philippines has a total vaccine supply of 8,329,500 doses at present.

For the month of June, the government expects the delivery of around 2.2 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer and another two million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, through the World Health Organization-led COVAX Facility.

Galvez said he hopes that the country’s vaccine supply will stabilize by July.