"We seek stronger support and action from the national government."
As we reach a rather unfortunate milestone of 1 million COVID-19 cases in the country this week, another challenge arises. The stock of vaccines are running out.
While experts are still studying other treatment modalities for COVID-19, I am concerned that the country’s vaccination program may be vulnerable to a lack of supply.
We have been preparing for the vaccination roll-out since the government released the national deployment and vaccination plan for COVID-19. In my previous articles, I emphasized the need for meticulous studies on the efficacy of the vaccines, logistics preparation, adherence to the priority lists, and capacity-building of local government units to implement the vaccination program. I strongly believe that, at the local level, we have been prepared for the vaccination. However, what can we do when the supplies begin to dwindle?
It is unfortunate that the local government units take a beating from the current circumstances which are beyond the LGUs’ control. The public should understand that the insufficiency of the vaccines is not only occurring in the Philippines. This supply problem is reportedly happening on a global scale due to the worldwide surge in the COVID-19 cases that is affecting production and international distribution.
Nevertheless, there have been setbacks on the agreements with manufacturers and delays in the delivery of vaccines. We understand the difficulty in obtaining these agreements. However, perhaps there should have been foresight from the national government on the requirements for the procurement and acquisition of vaccines from the beginning. In situations of life and death, supply problems should have been anticipated.
While it is true that the national government deserves credit for the successful acquisition of the initial batch of vaccines and supplies from donations and from the COVAX facility, at this point, the national agencies involved should not be complacent. We have breached the 1 million mark of COVID-19 cases. The situation becomes more alarming. We will be helpless if we will not be able to contain transmission the soonest possible time. This we can possibly achieve through herd immunity. However, the insufficient supply of vaccines and the delay in the procurement and in the delivery might put our efforts to waste.
Hence, I call on the national government to resolve immediately all issues on procurement and request for the expedited delivery of the vaccines. While we understand that the majority of the vaccines are allocated for critical areas with a high number of cases, I urge the government to allocate a fair percentage of the vaccines for an equitable distribution to places other than the NCR plus bubble. While Quezon remains outside the NCR plus bubble, we have had requests for beds from patients within the bubble due to a lack of bed capacity therein.
The local government units have been steadfast in serving the frontlines. For more than a year in this pandemic, LGUs are again faced with the difficulty of containing transmission while ensuring that priority groups get vaccinated. The imputation of the insufficiency and delay in the delivery of the vaccines on LGUs is simply unjust. In this war against an invisible enemy, foresight and preparation is crucial. All these months, LGUs have dutifully complied with the needs of the public. At this point now, we seek stronger support and action from the national government to expedite the needed vaccines and other medical supplies needed at the local level to address this pandemic.