The private sector and local government units (LGUs) should be treated as partners and not competitors in the national government’s COVID-19 vaccination program by being allowed to actively and even proactively procure and administer vaccines, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson stressed Monday.
Lacson said this is as long as they are in close coordination and under the supervision of the Department of Health and National Task Force Against COVID-19.
“One common mistake that every administration commits is treating the private sector as competitors through over-regulation instead of partners especially during the time of crisis such as this pandemic that we are confronting now,” he said.
“Let’s face the reality that the private sector does not go through the same bureaucratic delays that their counterpart in the public sector suffers from,” he added.
During his interpellation of Senate Bill 2057, the proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, Lacson said the national government should treat the private sector as partners rather than competitors through over-regulation.
Lacson noted a proviso in Section 5 of the bill, where private entities cannot get more favorable terms than the government in procuring vaccines.
“If we allow the private sector to go ahead and procure vaccines and administer vaccines, it would accelerate further the rollout and accomplishment of our vaccination program,” he said.
Lacson also cited a Straits Times report that the Indonesian government allowed the private sector to help inoculate the population to reach herd immunity faster.
“This is with safeguards of course, with close coordination with the national government particularly the NTF and DOH. The point is, we have the same target population. Why not be partners in our vaccination program? I don’t think we’ll lose much, we’ll gain more if we allow the private sector to help,” he said.
Lacson cited his experience as the then Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery under the Aquino administration, where the private sector played a major role in alleviating the suffering of those affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
“Right after I took my oath on December 10, 2013, I was told to attend the full cabinet meeting to formulate the government’s strategic plan contained in the Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY). While reading through the draft of RAY, no mention was made on the private sector participation, which I asked to be reconsidered. As it turned out, the private sector contributed so much and with such speed and efficiency that greatly helped alleviate the suffering of our countrymen in the 171 cities and municipalities devastated by Typhoon Yolanda,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lacson questioned the Food and Drug Administration’s issuance of an Emergency Use Authorization for COVID vaccines from Sinovac, but advising against its use for health frontliners.
“It’s like a chef who refuses to eat the food he just cooked because it is not good, but which he serves to the customers. How can a vaccinator convince the one that he is about to inoculate if he/she himself/herself is being discouraged by the government to use the Sinovac vaccine? This raises more questions and issues than what the National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 is already busy grappling with,” he said.