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Opinion

Tell me it ain’t so

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Recently, “stories” have been popping up in many conversations that suggest that the much awaited full scale vaccination campaign among the private sector companies for the month of July and August won’t be happening as planned and as scheduled because most of the vaccines arriving in the country are being directed to local government units or LGUs, even those that were ordered, paid for and scheduled for delivery to private companies.

During the first quarter of the year, many corporations and businesses were totally convinced that the vaccines they ordered would be sufficient to inoculate their staff as well as their immediate family members or dependents, especially since the purchase had a “tucked in” condition called “Buy One – Plus One for donation.” The companies were so sure about the deal that they even invited consultants and external associates to sign up. I myself got offers from two major conglomerates, a church and a government corporation and a hospital for whom I consult for free, to include me and my wife in their program of inoculation. That to me was truly encouraging and much appreciated but in the end, Karen and I were inoculated with Sinovac through the program of Pasig City under Mayor Vico Sotto.

In the meantime I monitored how things have gone with the generous organizations that offered to include us in their lists. One of my friends who decided not to go for a Sinovac jab because his company already announced they would get Moderna, recently informed me that his company advised them not to wait for the company bought vaccines and take advantage of LGU vaccinations in their respective barangays or villages because there were no guarantees or schedules when their vaccine would be delivered. When I called on the Communications group of a major conglomerate I was told by the vice president of the group that their vaccines have been held up and very delayed under the IATF that they quietly worked out with LGUs and told their employees to enlist with those LGUs for COVID-19 vaccination.

Add to that another friend whose family owns several medium-size businesses and decided early on to spend their own money to order vaccines through the government just to make sure that their employees were all vaccinated. It seems that she also got vaccinated through their local LGU, Taguig City, and not with the Moderna vaccine they had ordered and paid for: “Our shipment is technically here too but the government is the one dispensing it, that is, it’s being farmed out to vaccination centers and even if we got an order in and paid for it we still have to wait our turn which, ironically for me, I got called by Taguig faster than our vaccines which we paid for.”

Last Friday, one of my pastor friends told me he was lined up for his second dose of Sinovac courtesy of the Lipa City vaccination center and not the AstraZeneca that he originally thought he would be receiving once his church got the stocks. Come to think of it, one major reason there was initially a low turnout for vaccination in barangays or local governments may be because many employees were waiting for company vaccines, until they could not wait any more or were told by their employers not to wait. Now that those people are signing up, LGUs understandably run out of supplies.

Yesterday, a friend from Mindoro Oriental forwarded a long article purportedly from Sen. Leila de Lima labeled as “Dispatch from Crame No:1090 Sen. Leila De Lima on the IATF Practice of Re-appropriating Private Sector Vaccine Purchase.”  We tried to verify the article from the staff of Sen. De Lima but failed to get a response in time. The key issue raised in said article goes: “When the vaccines arrived during the expected delivery dates, some companies were frustrated because their allocations were not released to them. Instead of the expected thousands of vaccines for their employees, they received only a few dozen as token releases...

“Now because the vaccines they purchased are being withheld by the IATF, their employees had to resort to the LGUs for their much-needed vaccination. Moreover, these companies were deprived of the vaccine brands of their choice, which they purchased with their own money.”

The article went on to raise the sanctity of contracts between the private sector and the IATF, the fact that the private sector had to pay double because of the condition “Buy One – Plus one for donation” and suggested that the situation makes it appear that the private sector “got scammed” having to pay double yet getting nothing in return and ending up relying on local governments to inoculate their employees.

The article went on to raise issues of accountability, electioneering and the like, but I am using editorial privilege to use parts that are actually substantiated by the private sector alongside the timeliness of the letter relative to the issues raised by friends and employees in the private sector. As the saying goes, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Right now the smoke is about disgruntled business people who don’t have the vaccines they paid for. What happens then if all their employees are fully vaccinated by LGUs, are companies expected to simply write off the expense as a business “loss” or a campaign contribution? We all hope to get some answers soon.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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