MANILA - Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday said the Philippines' slow procurement of COVID-19 vaccines is "embarrassing" as the country still continues to study which brand should be procured, while other nations have either begun mass inoculations or are awaiting delivery.
Other countries have already purchased COVID-19 vaccines while the Philippines has yet to place an actual order for the drug, Lacson said in an interview on TeleRadyo.
"Parang kahiya-hiya na 'yung gobyerno... Naka-ilang loans na ba tayo para sa vaccine? Bakit hanggang ngayon ay wala tayong vaccine?" the senator said.
(The government looks embarrassing... How many loans have we gotten for the vaccine? Why don't we have the vaccines up to now?)
The Philippines' 2.5 million doses from AstraZeneca was made possible because the private sector helped fund the deal provided that their employees would get half of the procured shots, Lacson said.
"Hindi ba disgusting na private sector pa ang nanguna para magkaroon tayo ng pangunahing vaccine na proven naman dahil ginagamit sa ibang bansa?" he said.
(Isn't it disgusting that the private sector led this initiative to procure vaccines that are already proven effective in other countries?)
Months earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte had said the country was looking to a vaccine as the solution to the outbreak, amid criticism of government response.
With no vaccine yet available in the country, several of his guards have been inoculated with smuggled supply.
Lacson noted that a purely government initiative for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines has yet to take place, noting that the Food and Drug Administration has yet to issue a certification to legalize the use of any COVID-19 vaccine in the country.
"Mamamatay tayo sa kaka-study," said the senator, who has never confirmed reports he had already taken a shot against COVID-19.
(We are going to die just doing studies.)
Several local government units have already allotted funds for the procurement of vaccines for their constituents but have yet to finalize the deals as the national government has yet to announce the country's masterplan for the inoculation against the global pandemic.
"'Yung New Zealand nga may announcement yung Prime Minister na, 'Sobra 'yung aming naprocure, do-donate na lang namin sa neighboring countries na nangangailangan.' Habang tayo nakakalungkot na hanggang ngayon naguusap pa tayo kung ano 'yung vaccine na ia-approve," he said.
(New Zealand's Prime Minister has already announced that they have procured too many vaccines and would donate some of it to neighboring countries, while we in the Philippines are still sadly discussing which vaccine to approve.)
Lacson earlier blamed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for the allegedly botched COVID-19 vaccine deal with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer after the latter's supposed failure to submit documentary requirements on time.
The Pfizer vaccines meant for the Philippines instead went to Singapore, making the city state the first Southeast Asian nation to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
The Senate is expected to summon health officials to a hearing next week to know more about the national government's plan for the procurement, distribution and storage of COVID-19 vaccines.