De Lima urges Congress to streamline COVID-19 vaccine procurement process


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged the Congress to investigate the status of the National Government’s COVID-19 Vaccination Program to streamline the procurement process for the private sector which is under a tripartite agreement with the national government and the vaccine manufacturers.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution (SR) No. 700 directing the appropriate Senate Committee to revisit and improve its COVID-19 vaccine procurement process and come up with solutions to help liberalize access to vaccines and ensure the success of the national vaccination program.

“Unless there is a conscious effort to get to the root of the problem and change the tripartite agreements that cause bottlenecks and disincentivizes private sector participation, and allow the private sector to directly import vaccines without the unnecessary red tape, the country will continue to fall short of its vaccination procurement targets for 2021 and beyond,” she said.

“The private sector has shown willingness and competence to help address the issue of bottlenecks and inefficiencies in vaccine procurement. The national government should not become an obstacle to private companies with its delays, hurdles and ill-considered preconditions,” she added.

It may be recalled that after the government gained nationwide backlash for its leaked plan to prohibit several companies from procuring vaccines for their employees, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified last March 23 that the restrictions on private companies had been removed and that the requirement for private companies to donate half of their procurement to the national government would be reconsidered.

Critics earlier pointed out that the requirement under the tripartite agreement requiring any private company wishing to import vaccines to “donate” half of its order to the government effectively doubles the cost of procurement and discourages private sector’s participation in the negotiations for vaccine procurement.

De Lima said the laggard approach of the government to implement mass vaccination swiftly and efficiently has wasted the global effort to discover and manufacture vaccines in record time.

“It is a waste of opportunity at the cost of public health and to the detriment of Filipinos who remain fearfully locked in their homes waiting in vain for the government to step up in its Constitutional mandate to protect the right to health of all,” she said.

De Lima further stated that mass vaccination in the most expeditious manner is necessary “in order to combat the possibility of new strains which could potentially wreak havoc at an unprecedented and exponential rate than ever before.”

“The State must heed the warning of experts that vaccination is essential for the desired “population immunity”. Government’s lackluster performance in its vaccination campaign, which caused the Philippines to be the last Southeast Asian country to commence inoculation, is unacceptable,” she noted.

Dahil sa kawalan ng maayos na plano at palpak na implementasyon, naging napakabagal ng pag-usad ng bakuna, na kung nagawa lang nang matino at maagap ay hindi tayo aabot sa ganito na namang kalalang sitwasyon. We need to step up our vaccination campaign and we need to work with our private sector. Only then can we even hope for anything close to acceptable accomplishment in our fight against COVID-19,” De Lima said in an earlier statement.

As of 3 April 2021, a total of 795,320 individuals were reported to have received their first doses of the vaccine, which translates to only roughly 1.1 to 1.6 percent of the government’s target of 50 to 70 million people vaccinated by the end of 2021. (30)

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