DOH urged to assert definitive vaccine rollout plan, central authority
The authority, contained in Executive Order 121, permits the use of COVID-19 medicines and vaccines pending approval by health authorities, provided that there is credible data suggesting that the drug or immunization can stop, diagnose or treat the virus.
AFP/Douglas Magno

DOH urged to assert definitive vaccine rollout plan, central authority

(Philstar.com) - January 7, 2021 - 11:58am

MANILA, Philippines — With Metro Manila's local governments signaling their intent to acquisition coronavirus vaccines on their own, a healthcare collective is urging the health department to assert its mandate as the health authority during a public health crisis. 

This comes after the local chief executives of Quezon City, Makati City, Manila City, Pasig City, among others, disclosed their programs to provide free COVID-19 vaccination for their constituents ahead of the rollout of the mass vaccination program by the national government and the Department of Health. 

In a statement published early Thursday morning, the Coalition for People's Right to Health cast fear about the lack of a "fully fleshed-out plan [or] any actually approved or available vaccine in the country."

"The Coalition is cognizant that national elections are soon coming in 2022, and fears the further politicization of health services, persistently seen prior to and even during this pandemic," the coalition said in its statement, urging the DOH and the government's coronavirus task force to also expand the target of vaccinating just 25 million prioritized individuals for 2021 to at least 60% of the population or 66 million people.

READ:  Duterte allows LGUs to buy COVID-19 vaccines

To recall, members of the presidential security detail also admitted to making use of smuggled and unapproved coronavirus vaccines ahead of their time in the government's supposed priority, where healthcare workers should have been inoculated first.

The Palace has since asked the public to "move on" from the issue. 

"While LGUs have the legal authority to ensure its citizens' health and seek the means to do so, the Coalition for People's Health is deeply concerned with this development. The history of devolution of health services is riddled with inequality and politicization of essential services," it added. 

No vaccine has received the approval of the country’s Food and Drug Administration, which is required before it can be rolled out. 

In an earlier statement, the coalition slammed the Presidential Security Group for its “blatant” disregard of existing laws and processes which the group said bypassed health workers and mocked the regulatory processes in place to ensure the safety of those inoculated. 

READ: 'VIP vaccination' bypassed health workers, mocks regulatory process — groups

"Allowing unbridled parallel procurement of LGUs and the private sector risks undermining not just the institutional integrity of the top health agency, but also the prioritization scheme itself. The established list will be rendered useless if, in the long run, others will be vaccinated first before the more vulnerable individuals," CPRH said.

"Amid the fanfare and peer pressure for responsive mayors, prevailing inequities will inevitably beget vaccine inequity."

It has been 296 days since the first enhanced community quarantine was hoisted over some parts of Metro Manila, good for the longest quarantine in the world. 

As of the health department's latest case bulletin on Wednesday afternoon, a total of 480,737 coronavirus infections have been recorded in the Philippines since the pathogen first emerged in December 2019. 

"It is first and foremost the state's responsibility to provide for the people's health...But given chronic underfunding and neglect, the Philippine government needs to adequately fund health, science and technology as the new normal. We cannot and must not place our hopes on charity or corporate social responsibility for a strong and functional health system," CPRH said. 

"After nearly a year since the first case of COVID-19 in the country and almost 10 months under community quarantine, excitement for the vaccines has been growing ever since it was deemed as the solution to the pandemic by the administration," it added. 

— Franco Luna 

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