Senators blame Duterte administration for vax problems
MANILA, Philippines — The Duterte administration’s failure to include the Department of Health (DOH) in the negotiations for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines may have caused the problems that ensued in the government’s vaccination drive, Sen. Francis Tolentino said on Sunday.
Tolentino, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, said this was among the issues senators discovered during the public hearings that the chamber’s antigraft panel conducted to look into the country’s vaccine procurement program.
He noted that only the Department of Finance and the National Task Force Against COVID-19 represented the government in meetings with pharmaceutical companies.
“The [DOH] should have participated in the [actual] negotiations, not just in the pre-negotiations, for the contracts as the end-user,” Tolentino said in a radio interview.
“This was also the case in the laptop deals. The source of the funds should be included [in the contract negotiations],” he said.
Tolentino said the government might have erred in the distribution of the vaccines and in the prioritization of regions and sectors that needed to be inoculated first.
From the previous estimate of 44 million doses, he said the expired COVID-19 shots may reach 60 million in the coming weeks.
The government also came up short in planning the proper disposal of the wasted vaccines, according to Tolentino.
“This is again one of things that was not studied well,” the senator said.
“We bought the vaccines in volume, but we don’t know where we will dispose of the empty vials, [vaccine] bottles, and the unused vaccines,” he noted.
In addition, he said the DOH should explain how used face masks were being disposed of as he warned about the possible adverse environmental impact of improper disposal of medical waste.
Tolentino said the committee was already preparing its report and discussing the possible charges to be filed against those tasked with approving the contracts for the purchase of vaccines.
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