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Grand vaccine strategy urged

THE chairman of the House committee on ways and means on Tuesday urged the national government to commit to a timeline and grand strategy for vaccine procurement, distribution, and rollout, to avoid confusion among the general public, as reports of ‘fake vaccines’ in the black market begin to emerge.

“We need a general direction. How many vaccines have we now procured? How many more are we procuring? What is now available? When will the rest be available? And how will we prioritize? These are essential questions that we hope the vaccine czar, Secretary [Carlito] Galvez [Jr.], can help clarify for the public. Legitimate information is always the most effective way to fight the black market and avoid public confusion,” Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, panel chairman, said.

Salceda said that a commitment to a timeline will also help the private sector and local governments align their plans with the national government.

“A clearly articulated national strategy will help the public and private sector adjust. The strategy will help us identify when and what kinds of storage to procure, what needs can the private sector meet, among other basic components of the vaccination process. I am certain that national government has a plan, but we need the plan communicated,” Salceda said.

“Otherwise, the LGUs and the private sector will engage in a ‘free-for-all’ competition for vaccines, of course at the cost of a more strategic and targeted national distribution,” Salceda added.

Bayanihan sa Bakuna Act

The Albay House leader has already filed House Bill (HB) No. 8285, or the Bayanihan sa Bakuna Act, which would remove roadblocks to vaccine procurement, distribution, and administration.

The bill provides government with several special powers.

However, Salceda emphasized that one of the key features of the bill is that it allows the government to give emergency authorization to vaccines that have already been administered successfully on Filipinos abroad.

Several stakeholders, including the Federation of Free Workers, have voiced their support for the provision.

The bill also empowers the Foreign Affairs Secretary to explore diplomatic channels to accelerate vaccine procurement.

“If you look at the models used by Israel and Singapore, some of the countries where the widest share of the population has already been vaccinated, their vaccine diplomacy was critical. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu even made it his personal mission to get vaccines reserved, procured, and delivered,” Salceda noted.

The House tax chief warned that “a vacuum of official information will lead to more fake news and fake vaccines.”