Pangilinan backs stronger involvement of LGUs, private sector in COVID-19 vaccine rollout

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 13)— Getting the private sector and local government units involved in the country’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout may be a “key solution” to improve the implementation of the program, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said on Wednesday.

“If we will just let the DOH bureaucracy be the primary and sole vaccine rollout bureaucracy, I doubt that we will be able to reach our targets,” Pangilinan said in an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source, as he questioned why the said parties are not given the authority to directly purchase their own vaccines.

“But if you get the local governments involved, you get the private sector involved, and this is a whole of nation approach, and you have an effective leader in Secretary [Carlito] Galvez who has the support of the DOH, I think magiging iba ang hugis at magiging iba ang timpla ng vaccine rollout [our vaccine rollout would have a different look]," he added. "So this is key."

The issue was among those that hogged the limelight during Monday’s Senate Committee of the Whole hearing, as lawmakers questioned the policy requiring LGUs and private firms to enter into a tripartite agreement with the national government to procure their vaccine supply.

READ: Senators reject national gov't 'monopoly' in vaccine deals, eye changes in procurement rules

Pangilinan said he sees his fellow colleagues pushing for the amendment of this rule when they reconvene for the next inquiry, but noted that “safeguards” — particularly in coordination and reporting — must be put in place.

The opposition lawmaker, meanwhile, commended vaccine czar Galvez for his “gallant” efforts, but noted that he has to have the support of a “working bureaucracy.”

“Unless he has a working bureaucracy and stakeholders’ commitment around him, I’m afraid he might be a general without any army or soldiers,” Pangilinan said.

“I have no doubt General Galvez has what it takes to make this work, but he needs the DOH’s sense of urgency,” he stressed.

The Philippines has recently secured vaccine doses from China’s Sinovac, US’ Novavax, and UK’s AstraZeneca. Officials earlier noted that the initial 50,000-dose batch from China's Sinovac will be given to medical frontliners in Metro Manila, the epicenter of the pandemic in the country.