MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Committee of the Whole on Monday opened its inquiry on the government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.
Senators will be asking officials about the details of the government’s plan with the P72.5-billion funding allocated for the COVID-19 vaccines under the 2021 national budget.
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The Senate’s hearing comes in light of several controversies surrounding the government’s inoculation plan.
In December, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III was accused of “dropping the ball” in the country’s deal with US drug maker Pfizer, which would have secured the delivery of 10 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines this month.
Meanwhile, the PresidentialSecurity Group (PSG) found itself in hot water after it was revealed that some members received a COVID-19 jab despite regulators not yet authorizing the use of a vaccine in the country.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who will be leading the inquiry as chair of the Committee of the Whole, earlier said he would not stop his fellow senators from raising the controversial vaccination of PSG personnel during the hearing.
Sotto, however, said no official connected to the said issue was invited to Monday’s hearing “because it’s not [on] the agenda.”
Cabinet officials who have confirmed attendance in the hearing are vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Rolando Domingo, according to a document provided by Sotto’s office over the weekend.
Other officials who confirmed their attendance were Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña.
Galvez previously said the government hopes to vaccinate 60 to 70 percent of Filipinos against the coronavirus — enough to trigger herd immunity—within three to five years.
The government is banking on the Sinovac vaccine from China to be the first to reach the Philippines with officials saying it may arrive in the first quarter of 2021.
The government is looking to secure up to 25 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine.
The country has so far formally secured 2.6 million doses of vaccine from British drugmaker AstraZeneca, which are expected to arrive in the second quarter of 2021.
The Philippines has so far logged 485,797 COVID-19 cases. Over 449,000 have recovered while 9,398 have died.