Lacson hits slow vaccine procurement

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    SEN. Panfilo Lacson yesterday said it is high time for the Department of Health and the Food and Drugs Administration to show a sense of urgency in procuring vaccines for COVID-19 by exercising their power to issue compassionate special permits.

    “Why don’t they exercise their power to issue a compassionate special permit? Their officials keep claiming they are still conducting studies. Mamamatay tayo sa ka-study (People are already dying and we are still studying… We have to start the rollout of the vaccines soonest. Kahiya-hiya ang nangyayari sa atin (What’s happening now in the country is a shame),” Lacson said in an interview on TeleRadyo.

    The United States and Britain started vaccinating their citizens before Christmas. The Philippines is still negotiating the purchase of vaccines being manufactured by the US, UK, China and Russia. The private sector is also exerting efforts to procure vaccines, in cooperation with government.

    The government expects vaccine shipments to come in the first of second quarter of the year. However, certain lawmakers and private have been reported to have been inoculated late last year, aside from the confirmed vaccination of members of President Duterte’s security.

    Lacson said it is “shameful” that the prospective entry of vaccines to the Philippines stemmed from the initiative of the private sector instead of the government.

    “Isn’t it disgusting that the private sector is taking the lead to bring in vaccines? This should put the government to shame, especially considering that the Department of Finance has announced multimillion-peso loans for vaccines,” he said.

    “Nakailang loan na tayo sa vaccine, bakit hanggang ngayon wala pang vaccine?” he added, stressing the priority now is to focus on the immunization of 110 million Filipinos.

    Lacson said the slow procurement of vaccines “compounds the incompetence of some officials who drop the ball when it comes to procuring vaccines from other countries.”

    Lacson said a friend who had dinner with Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian recalled the envoy’s observation that while some Philippine officials indicated they want to procure vaccines from China, no one wanted to commit.

    President Duterte on Monday night said that until now, only one pharmaceutical company has applied for the emergency use authorization (EUA).

    The President, in his public address on Monday, said only Pfizer has applied with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an EUA even as the country had been negotiating, securing and preparing for the delivery and use of millions of vaccines starting the latter part of the first quarter of 2021.

    Duterte was referring to the announcement of vaccine Czar Carlito Galvez Jr. that the country has secured around 60 million doses of vaccines for delivery in 2021 with the first batch to be rolled out by later March. – Raymond Africa and Jocelyn Montemayor