By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the government to commit to a deadline to finish healthcare worker vaccination after the National Taskforce against COVID-19 (NTF) reported that only 12.7% of the 1.7 million health workers have been vaccinated so far.
In a statement, Hontiveros said that, while the country is waiting for the rest of its supply, the government should set a ‘serious timeframe’ for the inoculation of health workers as COVID-19 infections soar.
The Philippines is reportedly the only country in Southeast Asia with an infection spike.
“Our vaccination roll-out is paced without any urgency given the infection surge. By when will we finish giving out the first dose of all our available supplies? Kailan ba ang goal date para matapos ang pagbabakuna ng mga health workers? Surprise ba o bahala na lang? Kailangan ng genuine commitment from the NTF. We cannot take our sweet time with vaccination. We have to have real deadlines and concrete goalposts so there is no room for failure,” she remarked.
The NTF earlier said it would begin vaccinating the general public by April or May. They also said that they plan to ‘eliminate COVID’ by 2022. More than two weeks into the program, not even half of the initial targeted 562,800 healthcare workers have received their first dose, Hontiveros noted. She said the slow pace was painting a ‘worrisome prospect’ for vaccination of bigger sectors in the priority list.
“Currently, the NTF is vaccinating 14,400 health workers a day. This is a far cry from their aspiration of 450,000 individuals per day by next year. It is mid-March already. At this rate, it will take us around 4 months to finish vaccinating just 1.7 million people. I wonder how the NTF plans on crunching that period down to 4 days by the 2nd quarter. I hope we are not using these vague goals as press releases just to subdue the frustration of the people,” she said.
Hontiveros said the government should set ‘higher standards’ for itself to ‘fulfill its ambitions’, because it has failed to reach any timeline it has drawn so far. She added that, despite the several Senate hearings on the vaccination program, the NTF has continued to make “irresponsible or half-baked statements”. She again repeated the urgency of the vaccine tracker she proposed to manage the pace of vaccination and to help the public hold the NTF accountable to its statements.
“The COVID vaccine tracker I proposed and which will be rolled-out soon is a good first step. Makikita natin dito ang mga bakunang nakarating at naipamahagi. Umaasa ako na dadagdagan nila ng updates tungkol sa mga bakunang parating pa lang. Kapag sinabing sa ganitong petsa darating, walang excuse para di makapagsabi ng date kung kailan matatapos ang bakunahan for HCWs,” she said.
“The administration has a toxic relationship with the Filipino people because it has no real sense of the word ‘commitment’. Seryosohin natin yung timeframe ng pagbabakuna natin ng health workers. Late na nga ang allowance, the least we can do is commit to their immediate vaccination. Wag natin iwanan sa pagmumuni-muni yung pangarap natin makabangon sa pandemya,” she said. (AI/MTVN)