Garin on Covid vaccine wastage: Health tech council too powerful

Iloilo 1st district Rep. Janette Garin has underscored the need to depower the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC), saying its current set-up with the Department of Health (DOH) has led to the "wastage of resources".

Iloilo 1st district Rep. Janette Garin (MANILA BULLETIN)

Case is point is the reported wastage of 31 million doses of life-saving Covid-19 vaccines worth P15.6 billion.

“Parang kumbaga masyadong by the book, empowering HTAC too much that all decisions of DOH will have to depend on the council na hind naman full time at walang accountability (It's like too by the book, empowering HTAC too much that all decisions of DOH will have to depend on the council despite it not being full time and having no accountability). What happens is maraming nasasayang na resources, so we really have to amend the UHC Law na may mga killer provisions (What happens is a lot of resources are getting wasted, so we really have to amend the UHC Law that has killer provisions)," she said in a statement Thursday, Nov. 24.

Garin, a former Department of Health (DOH) secretary, was referring to the University Health Care (UHC) Law.

"Nakakapanghinayang talaga yung nag-expire na bakuna (The expired vaccines are regrettable), although we saw it coming," she said, alluding to the time when local health authorities were contemplating the rollout of booster shots against Covid-19.

She recalled a time when other countries were already giving booster shots while the DOH was still waiting on the decision on the council.

“Isa sa masalimuot na katotohan sa Pilipinas ay ang bawat desisyon ng DOH ay dadaan muna sa HTAC na sa ilang pagkakataon ay nararapat. Subalit may ilang sitwasyon na masyadong matagal ang rekomendasyon na bandang huli ay nawawalan na ng bisa gaya na lang sa nangyari sa Covid vaccines (In the Philippines, it's a complicated truth that every decision of the DOH must go through the HTAC, which at times is appropriate. But there are some situations when the recommendation takes too long and effectivity is lost like what happened with the Covid vaccines)," explained Garin.

The Iloilo lawmaker said she is open to filing a measure that would amend certain provisions in the UHC Law that gives too much power to the HTAC.

She clarified that she isn't pursuing the abolition of the council and that she only want it mandate to be limited to health tech assessment or establishing the prices of resources that need to be procured.

Garin said she expects to get support from her House colleagues as far as the proposed amendments to the UHC Law or Republic Act (RA) No.11223 is concerned.

"I’ve been going around and advocating it. Kailangan lamang maging bukas kasi medyo sarado ang iba (Those who are opposing it just need to be open-minded). Meron ibang original authors ng UHC na parang ayaw ipagalaw, kasi hindi nila nakikita ang malalim na problema (There are some original authors UHC that don't want to amend the law, but it's because they don't see the deeply-rooted problem). This should really be corrected," she stressed.