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EDITORIAL - Vaccine accountability

EDITORIAL - Vaccine accountability

(The Philippine Star) - June 15, 2021 - 12:00am

The Senate Committee of the Whole is reportedly set to conduct an inquiry into the government’s utilization of the funds for COVID vaccine procurement. The chamber previously initiated a probe into the vaccination program, which ended with loose ends. This time, with the government seeking P25 billion more for vaccine procurement, the senators should reject any stonewalling by executive officials.

Stonewalling on the vaccination of members of the Presidential Security Group as early as September last year was one of the factors that made people leery of COVID vaccines particularly from China, like the Sinopharm jabs used by the PSG.

To this day, secrecy shrouds that first COVID vaccination in the country. President Duterte himself publicly ordered PSG chief Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante to ignore questions posed by senators, the Bureau of Customs and the Food and Drug Administration about the vaccination using jabs that had no authorization from the FDA, and which the defense secretary described as “smuggled” drugs.

Also with loose ends is the probe on why the government dropped the ball – as described by the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs – on the procurement of 10 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, with payment advanced by multilateral lenders. The deal, worked out between the DFA and the US State Department as early as July 2020, would have secured the delivery of the jabs last January, protecting millions of lives and possibly averting the killer COVID surge that forced a return to lockdowns in mega Manila.

Now senators want administration officials to disclose details about vaccine procurement deals, including prices. COVID testing czar Vince Dizon gave assurance yesterday that the government supports calls for transparency and will provide an accounting of the vaccine expenditures during the Senate hearing. The PSG chief gave a similar assurance on last year’s unauthorized vaccination. This time, senators should ensure a full accounting of people’s money.

COVID-19 VACCINE
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