GIVEN positive developments on the potential vaccine to fight the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Senator Christopher “Bong” Go stressed the need to plan, communicate and implement a national vaccination program to guarantee equitable access and systematic provision once safe and effective vaccines are made available.
Go reiterated President Rodrigo Duterte’s call to prioritize the poor and the vulnerable once the vaccine is available, saying, “Huwag nating pabayaan ang mga mahihirap. Pantay-pantay dapat ang access at hindi lamang ang mga may kaya sa buhay ang makakakuha ng vaccine na ito.”
“Siguraduhin nating magkaroon ng access ang mga pinaka-nangangailangan, lalo na ang mga mahihirap at vulnerable sectors. Sila ang kailangan lumabas at magtrabaho upang buhayin ang pamilya nila,” he said.
Aside from ensuring enough funds to procure vaccines, Go also called on government to fully implement a nationwide information and education campaign regarding the vaccination plan.
“Huwag nating pabayaan ang mga ordinaryong Pilipino. Bigyan rin dapat ng tamang impormasyon ang publiko ukol dito para maiwasan ang pagkalat ng fake news,” he added.
Echoing the statements of the World Health Organization, Go emphasized that on top of having safe and efficient vaccines made available, an integral part towards recovery is for a country to have a comprehensive and equitable National Vaccine Program to save lives and protect more people in a systematic and properly planned manner.
“Hindi lang naman ito usapin ng pagkakaroon ng bakuna. Kailangang paghandaan din ang storage, logistics and transportation ng mga bakunang ito. Mahalaga na nakakaabot ang mga ito mga dapat makatanggap — kasama na dyan ang mga frontliners at mga kababayan natin sa iba’t ibang parte ng bansa,” the Senator further said.
As the Chair of the Senate Health and Demography Committee, Go has already urged the government through the Department of Health to plan ahead the systematic provision of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially with the possibility of a limited supply.
“Lahat ng tao sa mundo, kailangan ang vaccine na ito kaya inaasahan natin na baka magkaroon ng limitadong supply nito. Kaya dapat maghanda at planuhin na ang procurement, storage, distribution, use and assessment ng mga vaccines na ito,” he said.
Go emphasized that while all countries have been caught by surprise by the worldwide spread and adverse impact of the pandemic, health experts and government authorities have enough time to properly plan and implement a national vaccination program.
“’Yung buong proseso, ilatag na natin para mas mabilis tayong makabangon muli. Itong vaccine naman ang inaabangan nating paraan upang matigil ang pagkalat ng COVID-19 kung kaya’t ‘wag natin sayangin ang oportunidad na pagplanuhan ang maayos na implementasyon nito,” he said.
Recently, Moderna and Pfizer reported that their vaccines in development have good efficacy against COVID-19. For Moderna, the biopharmaceutical company reported 95% protection against the virus while Pfizer reported preliminary data of 90% protection and 94% protection for adults over 65 years old.
On Wednesday, November 18, during the period of interpellations in the Senate on the proposed 2021 budget of the DOH, Go said that funds had been allotted for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines with proposed augmentation to increase it further.
Go discussed several options for procuring the vaccines. One way is by direct procurement following Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act. The government may also avail of multilateral loans with the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. “Ito po ‘yung proposed by the Department of Finance,” he remarked.