MANILA (UPDATE) - Vaccine czar Sec. Carlito Galvez, Jr. on Thursday rejected the claim of Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin that there was "palakasan" or preferential treatment of certain areas in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
"We would like to contest yung sinasabi ni Sec. Garin kasi wala po talagang favoritism ang ginagawa natin," he told ANC's Headstart, referring to the lawmaker's title from her stint as health secretary of the previous administration.
"Ang ginagawa natin, 'pag tumawag ang LGU and they rationalized na kailangan namin ganito na vaccine na matanggap namin, kasi ganito pa lang ang natatanggap namin—which is para sa amin ay very reasonable naman," he added.
(We would like to contest what Sec. Garin said because there really is not favoritism in what we're doing. What we're doing is when an LGU calls us and they rationalized that they need to this much because they only received this much—which for us is very reasonable.)
Galvez said district representatives should not meddle in the implementation of the vaccination program as they are not part of the system in place.
He said the national government courses the distribution through the community health development offices of the Department of Health and the local government units.
"Ang gusto kasi ni former Sec. Garin, sa kanya namin ibigay yung doses, which is hindi naman tama. Humihingi siya ng allocation. Ang mahihirapan, maguguluhan ay yung ibang LGUs kasi hindi siya nasa lineage ng distribution. Yung accounting, mahihirapan tayo, pati yung administration," he said.
(What former Sec. Garin wanted was to give her the doses, which is not correct. She asked for an allocation, but the other LGUs will find that difficult, will be confused because she's not in the lineage of distribution. We will have difficulty in the accounting and administration.)
Galvez also noted some politicians take pictures during the arrival of the coronavirus shots and then publish posters that make it seem as though the COVID-19 vaccines came from them.
"Nakikita kasi namin, ginagamit sa politika yung vaccines. Yun po ang dini-discourage namin. Please do not use the vaccines as political weapons," he said.
(What we're seeing is the vaccines are used in politics. That is what we discourage.)
In a press briefing last week, Garin called for a scientific and population-based method for vaccine distribution, as she railed on Galvez to be "honest" instead of saying it's only the DOH that decides on the allocations.
She said what has been happening is that LGUs have to call up the national government, or Galvez or isolation czar Vince Dizon would have to visit certain areas for them to receive the vaccines.
"Kung di nila mapupuntahan ang lugar mo, goodbye ka na lang, maghihintay ka muna. At kaya nga naguguluhan kami kasi ang sinasabi si Pangulong (Rodrigo) Duterte na mismo ang nagsabi there should be equitable distribution of the vaccines up to the Visayas and Mindanao," she said.
(If they're unable to go to your place, it's goodbye for you, you will have to wait. That's where we get confused because President Duterte himself said there should be equitable distribution of the vaccines up to Visayas and Mindanao.)
"Ang sa akin lang…now is not the time to distribute based on wants. Siyempre, 'pag 'di mapuntahan yung lugar mo, hindi ka mabibigyan ng bakuna. Kung di mo sila matawagan, di ka mabibigyan ng bakuna. Now, ubos ang oras mo ngayon sa tawagan. 'Di nagiging systematic,” she added.
(For me, now is not the time to distribute based on wants. If your place could not be visited, you could not be given vaccines. If you couldn't call, you couldn't be given vaccines. Your time would be wasted calling, instead of being systematic.)
NOT CORNERING THE PRIVATE SECTOR
In a separate statement, Galvez denied the accusation that the government is keeping COVID-19 vaccines intended for the private sector.
"This accusation is clearly unfounded, unfair and farthest from the truth. It was the national government which made arrangements with Moderna so that the private sector could be given a bigger vaccine allocation and the doses could be delivered to them in June," he said in a press release.
He added, the 250,000 doses of Moderna that arrived this month were really part of the government's order from the manufacturer because it signed a supply agreement. But the drug maker requested that the private sector also be given some doses in this first delivery.
The Philippines is looking to achieve "population protection" before the year ends. This means vaccinating 50 to 60 percent of the country’s population, with special focus in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
So far, 17.4 million doses have arrived in the country, with 12.4 million doses already administered. A little over 3 million individuals are considered fully vaccinated, representing 5.33 percent of the minimum 58 million target, as of July 7, according to Malacanang.
- with a report from Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News