De Lima bats for free COVID-19 vaccines for Filipinos


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure providing free COVID-19 vaccines to all Filipinos and establishing a safe and efficient system of distribution and delivery.

            De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1942, or the “Libreng Bakuna Kontra COVID-19 Para sa Lahat ng Pilipino Act,” seeking to safeguard the health of Filipinos by allocating funds and mandating the country’s health system to offer vaccines against the COVID-19, free of charge.

            “Anticipating the arrival of these vaccines subject to trials and local evaluation soonest, this representation believes the need to guarantee free vaccination for all Filipinos whose right to health should not be diminished by belatedly acting on the health crisis,” she said.

            “As hopes grow for the early arrival of vaccines in the country, we must be prepared and guarantee our people the safe and efficient distribution of the vaccine to all Filipinos, especially the priority and vulnerable sectors of our society. It cannot be overemphasized: vaccine coverage is as important as vaccine efficacy,” she added.

            De Lima recalled that the executive branch has reported about its continued negotiations with pharmaceutical companies for the supply of at least 14 specific COVID-19 vaccines for local use, but she stressed that “its vaccination plan leaves much to be desired.”

            National Policy Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. claimed that the country will now have to fight for the remaining percentage of future COVID-19 vaccine supplies as 80 percent of the global market had already been bought up by rich countries. 

            De Lima, however, maintained that this challenge should not be an excuse for a delayed response in securing vaccine supplies considering that new suppliers with equally good efficacy rates have emerged.

            “A concrete plan of action that will universally promote the right of all Filipinos to health is vital in winning this battle against COVID-19. A vaccination plan that is inclusive will be an instrument to create herd immunity in a country of more than 100 million,” she said.

            According to the World Health Organization, herd immunity, also known as “population immunity,” is a concept in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.

            With universal vaccination, De Lima, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, pointed out that the benefits not only far outweigh the costs as the long-term effects prove to be cost-effective and efficient.

            “The cost of universal vaccination may seem too high on its face, but could later on be the very tool that will help the government to save more money in order to create and institutionalize more programs for the welfare of all.

            The WHO concluded that vaccinations “enable a rich, multifaceted harvest for societies and nations, [m]akes good economic sense, and meets the need to care for the weakest members of societies.”

            Under SB No. 1942, there is also informed consent to allow persons to choose which accredited COVID-19 vaccine to receive and the institutions from which to receive them.

            The said bill likewise mandates the creation of a database to ensure the tracking of vaccination recipients in case of problems that may arise after the administration of the vaccines. (30)

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