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Business Mirror : BBM: Expedite Covid-19 vaccine procurement and inoculation of booster shots to health-care workers

News & Interviews
2 September 2021

By Business Mirror

Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has called for the streamlining of the procurement process for Covid-19 vaccines to speed up the import of supplies amid the local government’s intensified vaccination rollout.

“To ensure enough and continuous stocks of vaccines, the government procurement agency must simply cut through the red tape,” Marcos said in reaction to the local government units’ (LGU) blistering clamor for sufficient vaccine provisions.

The former senator was also alarmed by the World Health Organization warning that the “freakish” Delta variant of Covid-19 now sweeps through the country as the dominant virus strain.

“The WHO has confirmed the community transmission of Delta variant which to me signifies an urgent call to action for our procurement officials to bypass the usual procedure to hasten the importation of vaccines,” he stressed.

Marcos was referring to the tripartite accord among the national and local governments and the private sector in the acquisition of vaccine supplies which appeared to have been set aside.

Under Republic Act 11525, or the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, LGUs and private entities may procure their own vaccine supplies through a multi-party agreements (MPA) with the national government.

“For one reason or another, such agreement appears to have been virtually mothballed despite persistent appeals by the local officials and leaders of the private sector to have the MPA signed by their counterpart in the national government,” lamented the former senator.

“In fact,” he added, “a resolution has been filed with the Senate urging the Committee of the Whole to look into the MPAs which have reportedly been submitted to the national government but remained unsigned by its representatives.”

“Malinaw ang kahandaan ng LGUs sa kagyat na pangangailangang mabakunahan ang kani-kanilang mamamayan…pero mas malinaw na ang problema talaga ay ang supply ng bakuna,” Marcos said, noting an unsustained or “on and off” vaccine rollout in the National Capital Region.

He added: “Lalo naman sa mga probinsiya kung saan ang hinaing ng ating LGUs ay ang kakapusan ng supply ng bakuna…kaya ang panawagan natin sa national government ay kailangan talagang ayusin ang pag-angkat ng Covid-19 vaccines. Naniniwala ako na higit na makatutulong sa paglutas ng nasabing problema kung pairalin na ang MPA upang makagalaw ang initiative ng private sector at ng LGUs.”

Booster shots for HCWs

IN a separate news statement, Marcos prodded the government to administer booster shots to health workers to bolster their protection from new variants of Covid-19.

Marcos made the appeal after a local infectious disease expert raised the alarm over “breakthrough” infections among vaccinated frontline health-care workers.

“We need to seriously consider administering booster shots to our health-care manpower to prevent them from getting infected with coronavirus. Health policies should address the realities on the ground. From what we can gather, it is becoming more critical for our health workers. We should do everything that we can to prevent our medical staff from being overwhelmed,” Marcos stressed.

Dr. Rontgene Solante, an infectious disease expert from the San Lazaro Hospital, said that current data consistently show vaccine efficacy tapering off six months after a person is inoculated.

“… I think we need to revisit again [government’s policy on boosters]… because if you are a health-care worker and you have mild symptoms, you will undergo isolation and can affect the performance and the way we deliver health care in our hospitals,” Dr. Solante said.

The Department of Health (DOH) is still not recommending booster shots for any of the priority groups, saying that the country’s vaccine supply is still “unstable.”

Marcos also stressed the importance of ensuring there is enough medical staff to look after Covid-19 patients, especially that daily cases being reported remain high due to the Delta variant.

“We need to have enough health workers to man the Covid-19 wards and ICU beds. Giving them these booster shots will help ensure that their protection is more than adequate for the critical work that they do. We need to prevent the total collapse of our health-care system,” Marcos added.

Meanwhile, a panel composed of experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) released a joint statement outlining a plan to provide booster shots to all US citizens.

“The available data make very clear that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination, and in association with the dominance of the Delta variant, we are starting to see evidence of reduced protection against mild and moderate disease. For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability,” the joint statement read.

Asean countries such as Indonesia and Thailand are already giving booster shots of either Moderna or Pfizer vaccines to fully vaccinated individuals.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that it is closely monitoring another variant known as “Mu” which was first seen in Colombia in January of this year.

“The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” WHO said.

New Delta variant cases in the country remain elevated and at times are hitting all-time highs. On Wednesday, the DOH reported another 14,216 new cases of Covid-19.

The DOH also said on Wednesday, that ICU beds for Covid-19 in the country are already at a 71-percent occupancy rate, which is already considered high risk.