Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano urged government to accelerate its procurement of vaccines as it gears up for mass vaccination among minors, saying the country’s pandemic managers must secure millions more doses ahead of an expected surge in demand for booster shots next year.
“So alam nating lahat ang sagot talaga yung bakuna e. Pero yung national government, bilis-bilisan natin y’ung pag-procure. Ano’ng problema, bakit hindi tayo nakakakuha ng bulto ng bakuna?” Cayetano said.
(So we all know that vaccines are the answer. But the national government needs to speed up its procurement. What’s the problem, why aren’t we getting bigger shipments of vaccines?)
“Yes, we’re meeting our target now, pero ngayon pwede na ang 12 years old, very soon, below 12 years old. Pretty soon, yung booster kailangan,” he added.
(Yes, we’re meeting our target now, but now kids 12 years old and up can be given shots, and very soon those below 12 can get vaccinated too. Pretty soon, we’ll also need booster shots.)
Cayetano spoke to reporters right after a meeting he held with pastors and church leaders in Lucena City, Quezon on Saturday, November 6.
The Philippines shot past a million vaccine doses administered in a day only on Thursday, November 4, a little over nine months after mass inoculations against COVID-19 started in the country.
Around 28.7 million Filipinos have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing 37.2 percent of the entire population. The country also started vaccinating its 12-to-17-year-olds, whose total estimated number is at 12.7 million, on Wednesday, November 3.
Cities in Metro Manila have fully vaccinated almost 89 percent of the eligible population, according to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.
Despite this, many local government units (LGUs) across the country have struggled to reach similar vaccination rates due to supply and funding issues, according to Cayetano.
The former House Speaker lamented that the Philippines is again getting edged out by neighbors like Malaysia, which he said had acquired an additional 40 million doses of the Pfizer-made COVID-19 vaccine by August of this year, compared to its 32.7 million-strong population.
“So ako naghihintay ako, kung 100 million tayo, kailan magde-deliver ng 50 million doses ng isang bagsakan lang? Kailan magde-deliver ng 100 million,” Cayetano said.
(So I’m here thinking, if there are 100 million of us, when could we get a bulk order of 50 million vaccines? When can we get 100 million doses delivered?)
He urged the country’s COVID-19 managers to resolve all bottlenecks to acquiring additional vaccines and to start stockpiling as early as now.
*Make vaccine distribution equitable*
Cayetano also pointed to the inequitable distribution of vaccines among LGUs, saying smaller LGUs are unable to vaccinate their citizens because more moneyed cities and towns are getting first dibs on jabs and medical staff.
“Maraming LGU na may pera, maraming wala pera. So kung wala silang pera, mahirap sisihin, or kaya may pera sila, pero naunahan na sila ng malalaking LGUs sa doktor, sa nurse and everything,” Cayetano said.
(A lot of LGUs have money, and there are a lot who don’t have any. So if they don’t have money, it’s hard to blame them, or they have the funds but they’re bumped off the line by bigger LGUs for doctors, nurses and everything.)
Saying LGUs are largely not at fault for sluggish vaccination rates, the former House Speaker said provincial governments should ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines and medical staff in their respective areas so that no town is left behind.
To achieve this, he pointed to the 2022 budget, which he said should be made more flexible given that it is 11 percent larger than the 2021 government war chest.
He said the government could use the additional P500 billion from next year’s budget to fund equitable vaccine distribution in the provinces, on top of setting aside billions for economic stimulus payouts to every Filipino family under the proposed 10K Ayuda Bill.