‘Suntok sa buwan’: Drilon expresses misgivings on gov’t COVID-19 vaccination plan

Robie de Guzman   •   January 12, 2021   •   386

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday described the national government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan as “suntok sa buwan” after the Senate conducted a hearing to tackle the program.

“Parang suntok sa buwan ang vaccination program lalo na yung sinasabi nila na 148 million doses within the year. The arrival of the vaccines is not even definite,” Drilon said in a statement.

“How can they say that they will be able to purchase 148 million doses by the end of 2021 when up to now, we haven’t given any Emergency Use Authorization to any vaccine and we have not been able to raise, through loans, all the needed amount for the purchase of the vaccines?” he added.

Government officials involved in the COVID-19 response on Monday faced senators to explain the administration’s plans for the immunization of Filipinos against the novel coronavirus disease.

The government earlier said it is planning to inoculate 70 million Filipinos this year and that it is eyeing to rollout the vaccination plan in the coming months when the initial batch of at least 50,000 vaccines is delivered in February.

The Food and Drug Administration previously said it may issue an emergency use authorization for the application of Pfizer and AstraZeneca within January.

“I am not reassured in the slightest by what I heard. To be honest, I am more confused now. The government’s Covid-19 vaccination plan fails to provide the public the assurance they need from the government,” Drilon said.

“The plan is good on paper. The plan is filled with uncertainties and it leaves too much to chance,” he added.

Drilon said the government’s target of securing 148 million doses within the year is “simply difficult to achieve given what Sec. Carlito Galvez said that 80% of global supply has already been procured by rich countries.”

“If only the government was able to make advanced purchases last year, similar to other low-and-middle income countries such as Indonesia and Brazil, maybe we would have a better chance of securing these 148 million doses of vaccines this year,” he added.

The minority leader added the funding is not even guaranteed at this point as the government has not fully secured the necessary loans to fund the P70 billion in the unprogrammed fund for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

The government has allotted P82.5 billion for the purchase of the vaccines but only P12.5 billion is in the programmed appropriation – P2.5 billion will come from the General Appropriations Act and another P10 billion under the extended Bayanihan 2.

“They have a better chance of achieving their targets if they lift the restriction that they set that prevents local chief executives and the private sector from buying vaccines directly from the manufacturers,” Drilon said.

“It will facilitate a speedy purchase of the much-needed vaccines. I believe there is a consensus among the senators insofar as lifting this restriction is concerned,” he added.

‘Against PH laws’: Drilon backs NTF stand vs blanket immunity for vaccine makers

Robie de Guzman   •   February 26, 2021

Senator Franklin Drilon

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the government cannot grant absolute and blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers, saying it is against the law and contrary to public policy.

Drilon issued the statement in support of National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., who earlier said that the government cannot agree to a full immunity for vaccine makers.

Galvez revealed late Wednesday that there are vaccine makers that demand full immunity but said the government cannot do so out of concern over malpractices and willful misconduct.

“Under the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act Congress passed last February 22, COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are immune from suits for claims arising out of the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, but not for willful misconduct or gross negligence,” Drilon said.

The senator cited Section 8 of the said measure which states that “notwithstanding any law to the contrary, public officials and employees, contractors, manufacturers, volunteers, and representatives of duly authorized private entities who are duly authorized to carry out and are actually carrying out the COVID-19 vaccination program shall be immune from suit and liability under Philippine laws with respect to all claims arising out, related to, or resulting from the administration or use of a COVID-19 vaccine under the COVID-19 vaccination program except arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.”

“The government cannot extend a blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers as it is against the law and contrary to public policy,” Drilon said.

The lawmaker, however, noted that any vaccine recipient can file claims for damages, based on the vaccine manufacturers’ liabilities arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.

“It is part of their individual and private rights that cannot be set aside by the government,” he explained.

According to Drilon, gross negligence is defined by the Supreme Court as “negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, or by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to the consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected.”

Willful misconduct, on the other hand, exists where the acts “were impelled by an intention to violate the law, or were in persistent disregard of one’s rights, as evidenced by a flagrantly or shamefully wrong or improper conduct.”

Drilon also said the establishment of an indemnity fund to compensate inoculated individuals who would experience severe adverse effects is also provided in the measure.

“The government set up the an indemnity fund to compensate any person inoculated through the vaccination program. The indemnity fund will take care of the costs for deaths, permanent disabilities and hospital confinements caused by vaccination”, Drilon said.

The bill likewise earmarked P500 million of the President’s P13 billion contingent fund for the COVID-19 National Vaccine Indemnity Fund. It will be administered by PhilHealth.

Drilon said the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Law will not only expedite the purchase and administration of vaccines but also sets aside money to secure the interest of the people against unforeseen effects thereof.

The proposed vaccine bill is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.

Davao City identifies 7 vaccination sites for COVID-19 immunization program

Robie de Guzman   •   February 18, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The city government of Davao has identified seven vaccination sites for the expected rollout of the COVID-19 immunization plan this month.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Davao City Health Office (CHO) head Dr. Ashley Lopez said that aside from the A. Mabini Elementary School in Bangkal, they have already identified additional vaccination sites for the city.

These are the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), University of Southeastern Philippines, Ateneo de Davao University-Matina Campus, and three branches of the University of Mindanao namely Guianga, IIang, and Bolton campuses.

Lopez said each vaccination site will have three teams comprised of 18 members.

A separate composite team will also be an deployed to the site to monitor any adverse effect on recipients following the immunization.

“We have already organized our vaccination teams composed of at least six members per team made up of a supervisor which is a physician, registration, and screening also a physician or a nurse or a midwife, one counselor, one vaccinator and two staff that is responsible for recording and documentation,” he said.

“For monitoring, we have the paramedic nurse and midwife and surveillance officer [that] we will put up in the vaccination site, composed of three teams, that’s about six staff that will be responsible for the composite team,” he added.

Security personnel will be also deployed to maintain peace and order in the vaccination areas, Lopez said.

“For our queuing and crowd control, we have tapped local officials from the barangay captains, security personnel from PNP and barangay tanods, which is more or less 20 designates for a particular vaccination site,” he added.

The city health office also instructed district health offices in Davao City to identify at least one vaccination site within their area of responsibility.

“Aside from these seven approved vaccination sites in Davao City, we will going to add up additional at least 13 to 14 more vaccination sites from the district health offices,” he said.

Davao City earlier conducted simulation exercises in preparation for the arrival, transport, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the city.

PNP readies security plan for COVID-19 vaccination roll-out

Robie de Guzman   •   February 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Tuesday said it has started security preparations for the rollout of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.

PNP Major General Alfred Corpus, director of Directorate for Operations, said the PNP Security plan called Oplan Caduceus, is comprised of three task groups on cold chain and logistics management, immunization program, and demand generation and communication.

The program entails the security for the transfer of the vaccines from storage hubs to identified vaccination centers and sites in the country.

“Pagdating ng vaccine sa airport, meron na pong security coverage ang kapulisan. Kapag ito ay itrinansport sa storage kasama pa rin po kami, pag distribute sa different distribution centers, kasama pa rin po yung inyong mga pulis, hanggang maiturok po yung vaccine sa mga recipient, nandon pa rin po ang inyong mga pulis,” Corpus said.

The PNP said its regional offices nationwide have also been instructed to escort the transport of vaccines to prevent criminal elements and other threat groups from taking advantage.

Police officers will also be deployed to assist health workers in administering COVID-19 vaccines to recipients.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government earlier ordered the PNP to secure all COVID-19 vaccines and protect the teams that will be administering them to avoid possible delays and disruption.

This is in compliance with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order for police and soldiers to help maintain order and security, as well as augment forces particularly in remote sitios and barrios, during the vaccination campaign.

Duterte earlier asked the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to allow the free and safe passage of the COVID-19 vaccines particularly in areas where they have a degree of influence.

The CPP agreed to the president’s request but urged the government not to use military or police vehicles in transporting the vaccines.

The communist group earlier said that vehicles transporting the vaccines must be clearly marked with a red cross over a white back ground to avoid being mistaken as a military vehicle.

Malacañang, however, rejected the rebels’ request, stressing that the government will push through with its plan to mobilize military and police assets to assist in the vaccination program. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Lea Ylagan)

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