Politics

Senate to probe P13B worth of expired vaccines

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A HEALTH WORKER prepares to administer a coronavirus disease 2019 vaccine at a vaccination facility in Quezon City, June 23, 2021. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

A SENATOR has filed a resolution seeking to investigate agencies that let P13 billion worth of coronavirus vaccines expire.

“It seems like we are throwing away money and vaccines despite the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases,” Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros-Baraquel told a news briefing in mixed English and Filipino via Facebook on Wednesday.

Senate Resolution 96 seeks to question the gaps in the process since vaccines during a pandemic “are like gold,” she said.

She cited reports that from April to July, as many as 27 million vaccine doses were wasted after these expired.

“If we only knew that this would be the outcome, we should have given the funds to other sectors that are greatly affected by the pandemic, such as farmers, fishermen, drivers and frontliners,” Ms. Hontiveros said.

She said the government should ensure effective enforcement of its coronavirus vaccination program from acquisition, distribution and deployment, to the provision of vaccination services.

The senator said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Department of Health (DoH) and officials in charge of vaccination should explain why they allowed the vaccines to go to waste.

Officials from both the Marcos and Duterte administrations should answer questions from the Senate and explain how they plan to avoid a similar situation from happening again, Ms. Hontiveros said.

“It’s regrettable,” Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay said in a statement in Filipino. “The money spent to buy the vaccines is no joke, especially since the pandemic has greatly affected the private sector.”

“Instead of helping to provide additional protection to our countrymen against COVID-19, it ended in nothing,” she added.

“The DoH and its advisers should increase communication with their international counterparts, especially those studying the effectiveness of the vaccine, to immediately know the latest results of their studies and focus on the expiration dates of the vaccine to avoid wasting it.” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan