Frontliners who have risked their lives amid the ongoing pandemic deserve to know the details of the government’s overall vaccination plan – if there is one, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said Sunday.
Lacson said this is one of the points he will pursue when the Senate Committee of the Whole holds its first hearing on the matter on Monday.
“Do we have a clear vaccination plan? Based on our conversations with doctors and frontliners, it appears we don’t. But frontliners are waiting to know when they would be prioritized in the vaccination program,” he said in an interview on DZBB.
“The frontliners deserve to know because they are the ones who go to the morgues, they are the ones who attend to COVID patients. They deserve to know if they would be prioritized in the vaccination program. There is no reason for the officials concerned to ask for an executive session on this because there is nothing confidential or classified about it. Wala namang kalaban dito; ang kalaban natin dito, sakit. Hindi naman yan sasagot,” he added.
Lacson said he will pursue as well the government’s dropping the ball on at least two opportunities when it could have gotten vaccines from US-based Pfizer and China-based Sinopharm.
In both cases, he noted the two firms ultimately did not allocate vaccines for the Philippines because the Health Secretary did not act promptly on them.
Lacson also cited information that in the case of Sinopharm, there was an offer to enter into a joint venture with Philippine pharmaceutical firms to conduct clinical trials, research and technology transfer here, such that vaccines can be locally produced in the Philippines. “Mukhang hindi natugunan yan kaya di natuloy yan,” Lacson noted.
Worse, he said the inaction has given rise to speculations that some in the government are “waiting” in favor of another brand, Sinovac.
“Why did we miss at least two opportunities to procure vaccines? We had set aside more than P70 billion for vaccines for 2021, and we have entered into loans for the purpose, so the money is available. The problem is that someone dropped the ball on the paperwork. Now, even Bangladesh is ahead of us as far as getting vaccines is concerned,” Lacson said.
“At least 25 Filipinos die and 1,300 are infected by COVID every day. There should be a sense of urgency. But why are we not seeing it?” he added.
Meanwhile, Lacson said that while the Senate may take up the issue of the Presidential Security Group getting vaccinated first, the priority should be on getting vaccines available for Filipinos. “It’s a matter of prioritization,” he said.