More assertiveness from the country’s vaccination czars and more flexibility for implementers and decision-makers on the ground will be crucial to the success of the government’s efforts to accelerate its COVID-19 vaccination drive and achieve herd immunity quickly, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson said.
Lacson stressed this following a meeting Thursday night between him, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Ronald dela Rosa on one hand, and testing czar Vivencio Dizon and contact tracing czar Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong on the other.
He also said the Senate will conduct a Committee of the Whole hearing on Tuesday, June 15, to exercise its oversight function on the government’s utilization of its P82.5-billion for the vaccination program and to evaluate the protocols and guidelines used by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. The hearing is initially scheduled at 10 a.m.
“We advised them to be more assertive. Senate President Sotto even said that if they are sure they are right and their ‘superiors’ are wrong, they can ‘defy’ them. Also, it is the people on the ground such as mayors who can appreciate the situation better. So it is important that they be given flexibility and more autonomy in the implementation of the vaccination program,” Lacson said in an interview on CNN Philippines.
“It’s very important that our people will trust the vaccines. Our people should get the jab done and the government should get the job done. If people see shortcomings or lapses on the part of the government, how could you improve people’s trust in vaccines?” he added.
Lacson said that while vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. – who was to receive vaccines that arrived in the Philippines Thursday night – is “too patient to a fault,” patience is sometimes “not a virtue when it comes to emergency situations.” He added it is good that Dizon and Magalong are there to assist and support him.
On the other hand, Lacson said those implementing the vaccination program should get enough leeway to make decisions on the ground.
Besides, he said many young leaders are showing they can get the job done, with San Juan under Mayor Francis Zamora likely to be the first city in Metro Manila or even the whole country to achieve the 70-percent target for herd immunity.
He cited as well the efforts of young mayors Vico Sotto (Pasig City), Isko Moreno (Manila) and Rep. Camille Villar (Las Piñas), and Mayor Magalong himself, for encouraging their constituents to get the jab. “These are young, dynamic and progressive-thinking officials we need, more than those who insist on sticking to ‘traditional’ processes,” he said.
Lacson also noted many local government units face the dilemma of complying with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to prioritize indigents, since their lists are based on the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s records dating back to 2015 or 2016.
Meanwhile, Lacson expressed hopes the vaccination program will be accelerated soon with more interventions from the private sector. A case in point is the Nayong Pilipino vaccination facility due to be activated in August, which could accomplish 12,000 inoculations per day, on top of a nearby facility which can accommodate 8,000 per day. Concerned government authorities are seen to improve the queueing system in their own facilities by following the lead of the private sector.
On the other hand, Lacson said the Senate is due to hold a hearing on June 15 to exercise its oversight functions on the vaccination program. He said Senate President Sotto already served notice to senators and those to be invited.
“We want to find out and keep track on the progress of the vaccination program. How many vaccines have been procured? How much more will be needed? That’s part of our oversight function. We want to be briefed because we are the ones who appropriate the budget. And under the law, we need to be informed how the appropriations are used,” he said.