December 30, 2020

THE WHOLE brouhaha about the inoculation of Presidential Security Group soldiers and other government officials with the Covid-19 vaccine from China exposes the lack of a clear, fair, and sound game plan on the control and management of the disease, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Wednesday.

“Vacc-it nauna sila? Di ba meron ng guidelines ng mga mauuna sa mga bakuna kontra sa Covid na IATF din ang naglabas? Di ba dapat mauna ang health front-liners? Vacc-it sinusuway ang sariling patakaran? Pati ang patakaran ng Food and Drug Administration na kailangang suriin kung mabisa at ligtas nga ang mga ito ay sinusuway rin,” Pangilinan said, combining “vaccine” and “bakit”, the Filipino word for why.

“Hawak ng mga nasa IATF ang buhay at hanapbuhay ng mahigit 100 milyong Pilipino. Pero mukhang kailangang alalayan ng Senado para maging malinaw, patas, at maayos ang game plan para masugpo ang pagkalat ng Covid,” he added, referring to the Inter-Agency Task Force of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

On December 14, the Senate approved Pangilinan’s Senate Resolution 594 asking the Senate Committee of the Whole to look into the government’s national Covid-19 vaccination program.

The hearing may begin early January 2021, but the date is still to be decided.

Senate interventions have put some order into the government’s pandemic response. These include, among others:

* Bayanihan 1, which originally included draconian measures giving the Executive powers to shut down and take over private facilities;

* The reorganization at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) after the P15-billion scam at the national insurer was exposed during a Senate hearing;

* The drop in the prices of test kits by about 25% after minority senators pushed for the approval of the cheaper, world-class local test kits.  

For 2021, Congress has set aside a P72.5-billion appropriation for Covid vaccination under the national budget, which was recently signed into law by the President.

A day after Christmas, President Rodrigo Duterte revealed that many in the country have already been receiving injections of the Sinopharm vaccine.

The China-developed vaccine has not yet been given any authorization from the FDA, the country’s approving authority on human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices. Unauthorized administration and illegal distribution are punishable by law.

As of December 29, the Philippines tallied a total of 471,526 Covid cases with 9,162 Covid deaths.

In budget deliberations at the Senate on November 16, economic managers said the Philippines has so far lost more than P3 trillion this year due to Covid-19.