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Solon backs plan to allow LGUs to procure COVID-19 vaccines

QUEZON City Rep. Alfred Vargas on Sunday backed the proposal to allow local government units to procure coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) vaccines on their own.

“I hope the national government will decentralize the procurement and vaccination process to ensure a speedy and efficient roll-out, especially as some of our local government units (LGUs) have expressed their readiness and have set aside their own funds for the purchase of vaccines for their constituents,” Vargas said.

Vargas said that by allowing LGUs with the capacity to pay to procure their own vaccines, the national government can focus on other priority areas, such as inoculating frontline workers and localities that have lower income.

The Quezon City government is looking to spend P1 billion on COVID vaccines, according to Joseph Juico, co-chair of the city’s COVID-19 Task Force.

The cities of Manila, Davao, Iligan, among others, have also said they have set aside funds for purchasing vaccines.

Vargas emphasized the need for LGUs to be taken into the fold and given a more active role given the magnitude of the government’s vaccination plan, which the solon said, could prove a logistical nightmare.

“By allowing those LGUs that can procure the vaccine on their own to do so, the national government could trim the numbers down to more manageable figures,” he said.

Congress has allotted P72.5 billion in the proposed 2021 national budget for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines next year.

The government is currently negotiating supply agreements with various manufacturers for 60 million doses by the middle of next year.

Vargas, though, reminded that the allocation for vaccines is “unprogrammed,” which means it is still subject to fund availability.

“Given that we cannot guarantee its sources, the willingness of LGUs to buy will certainly be a huge boost,” he added.

Meanwhile, Vargas also appealed to Quezon City residents not to neglect practicing health protocols during the holiday season, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city.

Quezon City’s COVID-19 reproduction rate already reached 1.15. Experts recommend that the reproduction rate should be kept below 1. The reproduction rate is the number of people that one COVID-19 positive case can infect.

The city government also placed compound in Tandang Sora on lockdown after 10 people have tested positive after attending a birthday party held by an individual who was already experiencing symptoms.

The said index case listed 81 individuals as close contacts.

“Huwag po tayong magpabaya, huwag ngayon na tanaw na natin ang pag-asang dala ng vaccine. Huwag po natin kalimutan ang health protocols. Manatili tayo sa loob ng bahay hangga’t makakaya,” said Vargas.

As chairman of the Social Services committee, Vargas also encouraged LGUs to start preparing their vaccination plans in close coordination with the IATF.

“Linisin na natin ang mga listahan natin, at pag-aralan kung paano ma-scale up ang mga existing vaccination plans so that we could easily roll out the vaccines when they arrive,” he said.

He said that early planning and close coordination between the IATF and LGUs would ensure that issues that could derail the vaccination could be pre-empted, and that there would be no confusion over the delineation of functions between the national and local governments.