House leaders to DOH: Step up fight vs COVID-19
Deputy Speakers Mikee Romero and Bernadette Herrera specifically called out the government’s health managers on the need to improve the vaccination rollout, contact tracing and bed capacity of hospitals.
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House leaders to DOH: Step up fight vs COVID-19

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - May 10, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — House leaders have called on the Department of Health (DOH) to step up in the fight against COVID-19.

Deputy Speakers Mikee Romero and Bernadette Herrera specifically called out the government’s health managers on the need to improve the vaccination rollout, contact tracing and bed capacity of hospitals.

“I’m an administration ally and it’s not just me – other administration congressmen also say that there’s so many shortcomings. I always call a spade a spade,” Romero stressed during the episode of ‘The Chiefs’ last Friday night.

The 1-Pacman party-list congressman lamented how the Philippine government’s response and health system have not been at par with its neighbors in Southeast Asia.

“We’re not comparable with the health system of Vietnam. So we need to wake up,” he lamented.

Romero said this is one of the reasons why he and other House leaders filed House Bill 9230 or the proposed Public Health Emergency Anti-Negligent and Corrupt Practices Act, which seeks to penalize specific acts of inefficiency and incompetence in government service committed while the country is under a state of public health emergency.

“The purpose of that bill is for those in government who are not doing their job to wake up and do their part. We need a progressive government.

We need to move forward and not just sit down,” the economist-lawmaker stated.

For her part, Herrera called out the DOH and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) over delays in the processing of tripartite agreements with the private sector for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Bagong Henerasyon party-list congresswoman said the vaccine rollout in the country could have started picking up the pace if only the IATF acted promptly on the tripartite agreement with the private sector on the procurement of the vaccine Covaxin by Indian manufacturer Bharat Biotech.

She revealed that Bharat Biotech has allocated eight million Covaxin doses for the Philippines to be delivered this month, as also announced by presidential adviser Joey Concepcion last January.

“It is unfortunate that we are already at the end of April, but the required documents are not yet concluded. Imagine how many human lives and sources of livelihood would be redeemed by eight million doses? As an advocate of women and children’s welfare, I firmly believe that we must expedite the process to enable the entry of new vaccine brands in the country. Women and children, especially those in the informal sector, are considered as vulnerable too,” argued Herrera.

Herrera lamented the slow pace of the vaccination rollout in the country with only 0.7 percent of the population inoculated so far, saying this could have been improved with the procurement of the Covaxin doses.

She specifically assailed the delay in the approval of the tripartite agreement to allow the private sector to procure the Indian vaccine, which already secured emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Since our regulatory experts have already approved the efficacy and safety of Covaxin, why is it that the IATF hasn’t signed the required tripartite agreement with the private sector as prescribed by Republic Act 11525 (COVID-19 Vaccination Law)?” Herrera asked.

The Covaxin vaccine is also not in the list of vaccines the IATF expects to be delivered in the next few months.

The administration lawmaker said the EUA approval for Covaxin could have been a potential replenishment for the depleting and unstable supply of doses administered by the DOH.

Herrera cited the need to hasten the delivery of Covaxin doses from India as its interim phase III clinical results yielded an 81 percent efficacy rate against the deadly coronavirus.

Additional reports also indicated that Covaxin is effective against the virus’ mutated strains from the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa.

Citing the data provided by Bharat Biotech, she particularly pointed out the additional edge of Covaxin, since its permitted age range for recipients is from 18 to 98 years old.

While India is on lockdown due to a surge in cases, its government has not suspended the export of the Bharat vaccine.

‘Continue to cooperate’

Meanwhile, National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. asked yesterday the Filipino people to cooperate with the government in the fight against the pandemic.

“The pandemic will not solve itself. We need people to continue to cooperate, to follow health protocols, to work together with the government. If we will continue our behavior as we used to do, we will not be able to solve the pandemic,” Galvez said in Filipino and English.

He said the government is planning to increase the country’s daily vaccination rate of 500,000 to one million once the country starts receiving a steady supply of vaccines.

“The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and the local government units in the National Capital Region are doing well. There were simulations. We are preparing for June when the vaccines arrive and the daily vaccinations rate will be 120,000 in NCR alone,” he said.

Galvez said the government is doing everything possible to bring down the number of cases, but it is also the responsibility of every Filipino to protect themselves against the virus by strictly observing minimum health standards and protocols.

“Until we reach herd immunity, we should look out for each other and make people realize that it’s our individual responsibility to keep ourselves, our families and our nation healthy,” Galvez said.

Galvez said that although there have been positive developments throughout the world, particularly in terms of the rising vaccination rate, India’s worsening COVID-19 crisis is a sobering reality that nations must confront and address.

“We commiserate with them (India) as our brothers and sisters. But their experience and ours show the virus is really still there. It’s causing pain, suffering and death,” Galvez said.

“We need to take a long hard look at how we do things and make sure we become stronger, more rational and more science-based in our policy decisions and implementation,” Galvez added.

To date, Galvez said the country has received a total of three million Sinovac vaccine doses, including the one million doses donated by the government of China.

“For this second quarter, your government is working hard for us to acquire close to 14 million doses of vaccines from five vaccines makers,” Galvez said.

He said that for June, the country stands to receive a total of 10,349,210 vaccine doses, which include 194,000 doses from Moderna, 4.5 million doses from Sinovac, 2 million doses from Gamaleya, 1.3 million from AstraZeneca (private-sector-procured) and 2,355,210 Pfizer doses from the COVAX Facility.

“By June, we expect to accelerate our vaccination with the increasing supply of nine to 10 million per month, increasing steadily with the expected deliveries of our purchase orders during the third quarter and fourth quarter of the year with 15 to 20 million doses each month. We are expecting to receive a total of 140 million doses by the end of 2021,” Galvez said. – Jose Rodel Clapan

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