Senators banking on IATF pledge to distribute vaccines equally among provinces

Published August 26, 2021, 7:57 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senators on Thursday, Aug. 26, said they are banking on the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines would be distributed equally to different regions in the Philippines once the government receives the 25 million doses of jabs that will arrive beginning September.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri said that since vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez himself has assured that much of the vaccine supplies that the country would be receiving starting next month would be allocated equally to different areas, the IATF should make sure to follow through with its promise of vaccine equity among local government units (LGUs).

Zubiri earlier questioned the government’s withholding of local government tripartite agreements, which is allowed under the Vaccination Program Act of 2021 and has filed a resolution asking the Senate to conduct a separate probe on the issue.

But Galvez, during the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on Wednesday, denied that the government is delaying all local tripartite deals claiming that manufacturers are no longer interested to have multi-party agreements due to complicated processes.

The vaccine czar further said the IATF is merely exercising due diligence and vowed to make sure that vaccines would be equally distributed to different regions.

According to Galvez, once the 25 million doses of COVID-19 jabs arrives in September, some 3.8 million doses would be distributed in Calabarzon and 3 million for Central Luzon.

“Pangako nang IATF na iallocate daw nila ang mga darating na bakuna pro rated equally to the different provinces without favoritism para sa ganun mabakunahan ang ating mga kababayan

(The IATF promised that they will allocate the vaccines that will arrive pro-rated equally to the different provinces without favoritism so that all our citizens can be vaccinated) fairly even in the far-flung communities,” Zubiri noted.

“Bilang isang probinsyano ay masaya na ako kung maipatupad nang IATF ito (As one who came from the province, I would be happy if the IATF is able to implement this),” the senator said.

Zubiri also said he is banking on the government’s promise to allow the commercial use of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech once the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives full approval of the vaccines.

“Pumapayag sila na (They agreed that) once FDA approves the vaccines for commercial sale katulad nang Pfizer na hindi daw pakikialaman nang IATF ang pagbebenta nito commercially (the IATF will no longer meddle with the commercial sale of Pfizer vaccines),” the senator pointed out.

“Meaning once FDA approved for commercial sale ang vaccines by 4th quarter ay no need na daw nang (there’s no need for) tripartite agreements anymore.

Sen. Imee Marcos echoed Zubiri’s call saying the lack of vaccine equity especially in provinces has brought LGUs in far-flung communities frustrated and deprived of any means to fight the pandemic, especially amid the rising number of Delta variant cases.

“Ang daing ng mga probinsya ay walang vaccine equity. Sa kabila ng matinding impeksyon dito sa NCR, sana’y tutukan din ang ibang mga lugar kung saan lumalala ang sitwasyon, at halos walang kakayahan ang maliliit na provincial hospital rumisponde (provinces are complaining there is no vaccine equity. Despite the increasing number of infection in the National Capital Region (NCR), I hope the government can also pay attention to areas where cases are worsening and where provincial hospitals have no or limited capacity to respond to COVID-19 cases),” Marcos said.

Likewise, Marcos rejected the IATF’s claim LGUs and the private sector are at liberty to procure their own vaccines even though they have already done negotiations with the drug manufacturers.

“Kahit nakapagbayad na nga sila, kailangan pa rin aprubado sa isang mahiwagang ‘tripartite agreement,’ kasama ng national government (even though they have already paid, they still need the national government to approve it through this mysterious tripartite agreement),”

“Eh halos lahat nakatengga sa DOH o sa mga ‘czar,’ ‘on hold’ or ‘under review’ (But almost all of these tripartite agreements are either parked at the Department of Health, with the czars, or on hold or under review),” she pointed out.

“Criminal delay na ito, sapagkat habang inuupuan, maraming namamatay at nagkakasakit! (This is tantamount to criminal delay, because while they are sitting on these documents, more people are dying and getting sick)!” Marcos lamented.