Goverment has ‘moral and mandatory obligation’ to reciprocate private sector’s help | Inquirer Opinion
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Goverment has ‘moral and mandatory obligation’ to reciprocate private sector’s help

/ 05:01 AM December 02, 2021

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. should be the last person to pontificate on the “moral and mandatory obligation” of the government to prioritize unvaccinated Filipinos in the use of available vaccines procured by the private sector (“Vaccine czar thumbs down biz groups’ proposal on boosters,” News, 11/26/21).

In the first place, the slow vaccine rollout in our country is due to the administration’s inefficiency, late response, and corruption-ridden allocation of pandemic funds, which impeded the procurement of the much-needed jabs. Among Asean countries, the Philippines ranks among the lowest in terms of fully inoculated citizens to total population. While many countries have long reached herd immunity, we are still by government account less than half of the official target. The government could have done much better if only its interventions had been timely, efficient, and aboveboard.

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Early on when COVID-19 vaccines were already available in the US, political considerations prevented the immediate contracting for a considerable volume of Pfizer vaccines already committed to the Department of Foreign Affairs and our ambassador to the US. Somebody “dropped the ball” ostensibly to give way to the Sinovac brand preferred by the administration and give President Duterte the chance to rave about Xi Jinping’s vaccine donations.

This bias for Sinovac is apparent in the government’s own data, where Sinovac accounted for more than 40 percent or 50,500,000 doses out of the total 117,000,000 sourced from all manufacturers. Suspiciously, a supposed nondisclosure agreement in the purchase contracts for Sinovac vaccines has been invoked by the Department of Health (DOH) in refusing to disclose the purchase price, giving rise to speculations of another Pharmally-style overpricing.

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As the Inquirer reported, “of the 138.3 million vaccine doses that have arrived in the country as of Nov. 25, some 91 million were procured by the government, while about 7.4 million were purchased by the private sector,” and the rest coming from donations. Evidently, the private sector procurement accounts for only a minuscule portion of total COVID-19 vaccines available in the country. Also, according to Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, there are enough funds to vaccinate 70 million Filipinos. So why should the vaccine czar be so inflexible in approving the request of the private sector when the slow vaccine rollout is the government’s own doing, and there are enough public funds for vaccines?

More damning is the folly of the government increasingly allowing private businesses to open but denying workers added COVID-19 protection through booster shots. It is, in fact, the government that has the “moral and mandatory obligation” to reciprocate the help given by the private sector — and to apologize to the Filipino people for its sordid failings.

DONATO SOLIVEN
[email protected]

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TAGS: Donato Soliven, Letters to the Editor, private sector COVID-19 response
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