What about a vaccine against corruption?
INTEGRITY BEAT - Henry J. Schumacher (The Freeman) - November 20, 2020 - 12:00am

The publication by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna of the interim efficacy results for their COVID-19 vaccine is making headlines around the world. People are now asking when, rather than if, a vaccine will become available so that the pandemic, badly affecting all of us, can be solved.

With government taken anti-corruption more seriously now, the question comes up whether we can develop a vaccination against corruption also. We have been waiting for effective anti-corruption in government and the private sector for so long. We need vaccination against corruption now!

As I mentioned in my last column on the corruption issue, we better understand that in corruption it needs two to tango: the government official who takes and the private sector person who is ready to give. While we always complain about the ‘corrupt government agencies and their practices’, it is time now to get the behavior of the private sector in order too.

Corruption does not stop when health is at stake. We have seen it regarding the PPEs, PhilHealth, hording and misappropriation of relief goods and payments, etc. The clear unmet demand for a vaccine and willingness to pay for ‘immunity’ must be of deep concern for government and all of us. The vaccine is likely to have a high ‘street value’, making supplies by government and the private sector attractive targets for ‘diversion’, unless adequate safeguards are built into supply chains.

Strong surveillance and oversight mechanisms will be needed. To take it one step further, government and the private sector have to ensure that falsified and substandard vaccines do not get into circulation. Even when vaccines make it to public and private hospitals and clinics, opportunities for corruption at the point of delivery, such as under-the-table payments, exist!

It is good to see that Transparency International (TI) is developing country level frameworks to ensure distribution is equitable and transparent. TI sees the need for civil society to engage with the national and local governments in the planning and monitoring of distribution. This must range from the technologically complex, using RFID tracking of vaccines, through to awareness campaigns on reporting corruption, and community-led distribution monitoring.

With so much resting on the successful deployment of a vaccine, one thing is clear – it cannot go wrong! If we can get this right, a corruption free Covid-19 distribution will not only tackle the pandemic, it will also prove that ‘vaccinating against corruption’ can be successful!!!

Feedback is welcome; please email me at hjschumacher59@gmail.com

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