MANILA— The Department of Health should be transparent with how many vaccine doses are available in certain localities to prevent people from crowding vaccination sites, Sen. Francis Tolentino said Friday.
The chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government was reacting to videos showing huge crowds outside vaccination sites in Metro Manila and nearby areas on Thursday, the eve of the region's return to a hard lockdown.
Hundreds fell in line to get their shot against the novel coronavirus Thursday, ahead of the imposition of tighter lockdowns to curb the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
But many were left disappointed and sent home after the day's vaccination slots were filled.
“I’ve been saying this since the last several months, there should be an overall picture or publication daily, not just of how many vaccinations were made, 1st dose, 2nd dose, but the number of vaccine doses available. How many were delivered to a specific LGU, to a specific barangay, a specific province? Wala tayong records na lumalabas even in the media so I’ve been crying out for that,” he said in an ANC interview.
“It is the foundation of how discipline and the correct LGU systems can be put in place. Without that, magulo talaga, akala nila all can be vaccinated,” he said.
Tolentino said the chaos at vaccination sites on Thursday should not be taken as a failure of local government units (LGUs) in implementing the vaccination program.
“We can state that perhaps misinformation or lack of a system for crowd control probably generated that situation, but it cannot be an overall picture of how the LGU is doing,” said Tolentino, formerly mayor of Tagaytay City.
“Perhaps one mistake, perhaps there was one mistake or there was a lack of credible information dissemination on how the jabs can be done systematically [that] led to that.”
Tolentino said LGUs should be allowed to purchase their own vaccines directly from manufacturers.
Local governments are currently allowed to buy vaccine doses provided that they enter into a tripartite agreement with the Philippine national government and vaccine manufacturers.
“Freeing, unlocking the resources of the private sector, the companies, and LGUs with enough resources would probably provide us with more vaccines,” he said.
Tolentino said LGUs have been doing a good job since the start of the pandemic by helping set up check points, implementing lockdowns, and distributing aid. He noted, however, that they have been overburdened.
Tolentino said LGUs should be part of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases, which sets guidelines & policies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They should have a seat at the table. They should have a voice there,” he said.