Senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go issued a strong reminder to the Department of Science and Technology and other relevant authorities to avoid any pressure in the vaccine approval process, and to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine before it is distributed to the general public.
“Kailangan siguraduhin muna natin na safe na, so antayin muna natin ang pag-aaral ng health experts at concerned authorities tulad ng Food and Drug Administration at ng DOST. Magkakaroon naman ng clinical trial. Alam ko nagmamadali na ang ating mga kababayan pero dapat unahin natin ang safety,” Go said during an interview after visiting typhoon victims in Bato, Catanduanes on Tuesday, November 10.
He disclosed that Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Carlito Galvez Jr., the country’s newly designated vaccine czar, had identified potential vaccines from which government could make its decisions.
“Kagabi, inabot sa amin ni Secretary Galvez ang mga possible na vaccine natin na pwedeng kunin. Iba’t-ibang presyo, iba’t-ibang bansa. ‘Yung iba, nasa stage three na. In fact, ang ating Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte gusto na rin magpa-vaccine [dahil] may edad na [siya],” he added.
His statements come after an American pharmaceutical company announced a vaccine candidate it is developing with a German partner was determined to be 90% effective based on initial trial results.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III cautioned during the interview that the effectiveness of any vaccine must first be validated by the DOST and the country’s vaccine expert panel before it can be distributed within the country.
“Hindi tayo pwedeng maniwala basta-basta ng mga claims so kailangan po validation. Kailangan i-validate ng iba’t-ibang eksperto. Sa isang taon pa ang bakuna. Gusto man natin bukas kung kakayanin pero ‘di ganun dahil sinisiguro ng pamahalan na maging ligtas at epektibo ang bakuna. Number one ang kaligtasan. Sinisiguro natin ang kalidad,” said Duque, before stressing the importance of waiting for the World Health Organization’s assessment on the matter.
Senator Go continued and reassured the public that the government’s national vaccination program would prioritize the poor and vulnerable who have been most affected by the pandemic.
“Huwag kayo mag-aalala. Uunahin namin [ni Pangulong Duterte] ang mahihirap, vulnerable. Alam ko, hirap na sila pero importante maging safe na muna ang vaccine na ito,” he stressed.
Under Republic Act No. 11494, otherwise known as the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, the government has set aside P10 billion as standby funds for the testing and procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and medication .
Under its initial plan, the government intends to purchase vaccines for twenty million Filipinos. Medical frontliners, including barangay health workers and other healthcare workers, shall be vaccinated first. Senior citizens, low-income households and the vulnerable sector will also be prioritized.
In recent weeks, Go issued an appeal to the government to find ways to provide COVID-19 vaccines for free to poor and vulnerable sectors once they are declared safe and effective.
“Naiintindihan din namin ni Pangulo ang kahalagahan ng pagbibigay-prayoridad sa mga mahihirap na Pilipino pagdating sa COVID-19 vaccine. Kaya naman po umapela rin ako sa gobyerno na mag-develop ng isang national vaccination program na mangangasiwa sa sistematikong pag-i-immunize sa ating mga kababayan kung saan uunahin natin ang mga mahihirap at parte ng vulnerable sectors. Dapat gawing libre ang COVID-19 vaccines para sa mga pinaka-nangangailangan nito,” he stressed. (OSBG)
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