De Lima: Where are the vaccines?
MANILA, Philippines — One year later and billions of pesos in debt, Senator Leila de Lima is echoing the public’s sentiment.
“Nasaan ang bakuna? (where are the vaccines?),” wrote De Lima in a statement Saturday. “The number of positive cases continues to rise even after more than a year of the pandemic. Hospitals are once again overwhelmed that they are no longer able to accommodate new patients. And there are reports of people who expired while waiting for medical attention.”
“Pero ang mas masaklap, hanggang ngayon, dahil sa kawalan ng maayos na plano at palpak na implementasyon, napakabagal ng pag-usad ng bakuna, na kung nagawa lang nang matino at maagap ay hindi tayo aabot sa ganito na namang kalalang sitwasyon.”
(What’s worse is until now, because of the lack of planning and terrible implementation, the rollout of vaccines is very slow that if it were done correctly and early we will not be in this terrible situation.)
The national government went on a borrowing spree this pandemic, a health crisis that started in 2020, and that has pushed the country’s debt to P9.8 trillion.
Despite the exorbitant price tag, the Philippines has lagged in its COVID-19 vaccine rollout with 738,913 people getting vaccinated as of March 30 according to the Department of Health.
The Philippines, as per DOH, has procured 2,525,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines with 1,468,200 getting distributed across 2,596 vaccination sites.
As of Saturday, there is a total of 165,716 active cases after the addition of 12,576 new cases.
It was only recently, though, that private companies were given the liberty to procure their own vaccines but they still have to comply with the demand of the Inter-Agency Task Force to donate half of what they buy to the government.
De Lima slammed this idea and pushed the notion of donating half of what a private company buys to be abolished.
“Since the Duterte regime has proven its incompetence in its failure to secure timely vaccines for Filipinos, there is an urgent need to revisit the vaccination campaign, change the tripartite agreements that cause a bottleneck, and allow the private sector to directly import vaccines without the Duterte-brand red tape,” said de Lima.
“R.A. 11525 allows private companies to buy their vaccines but only under this tripartite agreement. Private entities need to have first IATF’s approval to purchase vaccines. But as we have seen since, IATF is demanding the private companies donate half of their purchase to the government while raising the prices of the vaccine. Not only is this making vaccine practically unavailable to already distressed companies, but this regime is also using access to a vaccine as a political tool for patronage politics and influence peddling.”
De Lima pinned the blame on President Rodrigo Duterte for the government’s slow rollout of the vaccines.
The opposition senator added that the vaccines the Presidential Security Group used were smuggled and illegal.
She even alleged that there’s a black market that sells vaccines that were illegally brought to the country and that this happened because of Duterte’s failure.
“We need to step up our vaccination campaign and we need to work with our private sector. Only then can we even hope for anything close to acceptable accomplishment in our fight against COVID-19,” De Lima said.
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