CHR calls on government to ensure equal access to 'good quality' vaccines
This handout picture taken on Aug. 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against the coronavirus disease, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.
Handout/Russian Direct Investment Fund/AFP

CHR calls on government to ensure equal access to 'good quality' vaccines

(Philstar.com) - January 16, 2021 - 12:11pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights is calling on the national government to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines in the country as well-resourced local governments make moves to secure doses for their constituents.

"It is the responsibility of the national government to make sure that vaccines must be as accessible for Filipinos in urban cities as well as those situated in far-flung areas of the country where there is a known cluster of infected population," a statement released by CHR Commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana read.

Most of the LGUs that have secured vaccine deals are located in Metro Manila, making tripartite agreements with the national government and the United Kingdom-based AstraZeneca whose jabs have an efficacy of 70%. AstraZeneca has also committed to selling its doses on a non-profit basis.

READ: A roundup of local governments who secured vaccine deals in advance

But Pimentel-Gana noted: "There may be local government units with a host of infected residents who may not have resources to urgently procure vaccines."

"An effective national vaccine rollout means a vaccine is made available to one living in urban Manila in about the same time to one recipient based in Sulu," she added.

Pfizer, Moderna: For major cities only?

In addition to the problem posed by the unequal funds of local governments, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. on Monday said that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which require extremely cold temperatures to store, can only be deployed in major urban centers due to the lack of facilities.

Pfizer and Moderna boast the highest efficacy rates among the vaccines on the market at 95% and 94.5%, respectively. Pfizer's vaccine is also the only jab so far to receive approval for emergency use in the country. 

"Since a vaccination program is part of the government’s obligation to uphold the people’s right to health, it must then also adhere to the standards of availability, accessibility, acceptability, and quality," the CHR commissioner said.

"Such standards include the people right to know and be assured of a vaccine’s effectiveness and that it is scientifically and medically appropriate and of good quality."

Pimentel-Gana noted that if the government cannot rollout comprehensive inoculation all at once, then it should partner with other sectors to ensure that no one is left behind.

"An efficient vaccination system promotes the universal quest for everyone to be accorded the right to a standard of living adequate for one’s health and well-being, especially in the aspect of medical care," she said.

Vaccine hesitancy

"An effective national vaccination strategy is a vital component of an efficient national health care program, and an undeniable human right," CHR's commissioner said.

But a recent Pulse Asia survey found that 47% of Filipinos are not willing to be inoculated against COVID-19, while only 32% said they would receive a vaccine. An overwhelming 84% of those unwilling to be vaccinated said they were concerned that the jabs would not be safe.

Amid these fears, the Palace has doubled down on the national government's decision to purchase 25 million doses of China's Sinovac vaccine even though it has yet to complete its Phase 3 trials. The latest data from Brazil places its efficacy at 50.4%, barely passing the world health authorities' threshold of 50% to 60%.

READ: 'A huge failure': Roque criticized anew for saying public can't be picky with vaccine brand

The country's Food and Drug Administration during a virtual briefing on Thursday announced that Sinovac applied for emergency use authorization (EUA) but with incomplete documents.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. also admitted to senators on Friday that no national government money will be used to purchase the 17 million doses of AstraZeneca, which has released the results of its worldwide trials and applied for a EUA earlier this month.

But government money will be spent to purchase the tens of millions of doses from Sinovac — a purchase which Galvez said can still be called off. Testing czar Vince Dizon added that the Philippine government will not purchase Sinovac's jabs if it is not recommended by the vaccine expert panel.

AstraZeneca doses are also some of the cheapest on the market at P610 for two doses. Meanwhile, a single dose of Sinovac's vaccine could be as low as P680 or as high as P1,1814 according to data gathered by the offices of Sens. Sonny Angara and Ping Lacson.

The first shipment of 50,000 doses of China's Sinovac vaccine is expected to arrive in February as well as an undetermined amount of Pfizer's jabs. 

— Bella Perez-Rubio

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