Senator Risa Hontiveros questioned the capacity of the National Taskforce on COVID-19 (NTF) and the Department of Health (DOH) to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA) given the unsolved difficulties in existing immunization programs.
“A documented difficulty by the DOH in the Sabayang Patak Laban sa Polio is the low immunization coverage in some areas, owing to the difficulties in terrain. Magkakalayo ang mga bahay at mahirap ang mga dadaanan. Hindi pa ito matugunan ng DOH ngayon, so paano natin masisiguro na itong COVID-19 vaccine ay makakarating sa mga nangangailangan given na napaka-sensitibo ng bakuna sa temperature changes?” she asked.
“I support Senator Pangilinan’s call for a hearing by a Senate Committee of the Whole to iron out all the details from preparations, to roll-out, to finish. As I said before, public trust is crucial in a public health crisis. This is a massive project that should be made clear to the whole of government, whole of society. Everyone has to be confident in the game plan.”
Hontiveros also called for government to begin creating a post-vaccination COVID-19 response plan after an editorial published in November in the Nature Journal showed that vaccinated individuals can still spread the coronavirus to others. “To my layperson’s ears, it means you can be protected from COVID-19 but you can pass it on to others. I imagine that there are specific populations that cannot be vaccinated, like the very young. They will continue to be vulnerable to COVID. We cannot let our guard down and the protocols should be maintained,” she said.
“Vaccination is not the magic bullet to putting an end to the pandemic. We must create sustainable strategies for safely co-existing with COVID-19 while we roll-out vaccination,” she added. “It is of the utmost importance that we think of the end in mind, if not we might see a whole new wave of infections.”
Hontiveros added that after the vaccination of the indigent groups, it is important to begin securing and allocating funds for mass vaccination. “We can only achieve herd immunity if 60-70% of the population gets vaccinated. If the DOH and NTF foresee the process to take the next 4 to 5 years, are we financially prepared to make it happen? The threat of a hiccup in our plans might cost lives,” she said.
“Ito ang pinakamalaking vaccination program in the history of our country. If we don’t do it right, we'll waste billions of pesos and risk millions of lives,” she concluded.
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