Malacañang urged to appoint vaccine czar

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 25) — Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto has called on Malacañang to appoint a “vaccine czar” to improve the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Saturday, Recto said a vaccine czar will be needed to address the importance of distributing vaccines to 110 million Filipinos.

Citing the World Health Organization, Recto also said that although over 170 candidate vaccines are in various stages of development from different countries, only about two billion doses can be rolled out by the end of 2021.

“Ilan ang matitira para sa mga Pilipino? Countries who have sunk billions into their development have firm orders so they are first in line. Pang-ilan tayo sa mahabang linya?” Recto said.

[Translation: How many doses will be left for the Filipinos? Countries who have sunk billions into their development have firm orders so they are first in line. In which part of the long line do we fall under?]

"Against this obstacle, we need a Filipino with global stature, excellent connections and diplomatic skills” to successfully place the orders and outsmart the competition, he said.

The senator also raised the issue of rationing, infrastructure for production, post-inoculation monitoring among other potential hurdles of vaccine distribution in the country.

A vaccine czar must also jumpstart the setting up of a “supply-to-syringe cold chain” as the vaccines have to be moved and stored in freezing temperatures in the Philippines, a tropical country.

“Like any frozen delight, the vaccine needs to be refrigerated. Filling the cold chain gap ranks high in the vaccine czar’s many duties,” he said.

Pharmaceutical giant Moderna said its vaccines must be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius. Pfizer, on the other hand, has notified the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that its vaccine must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

The Duterte administration has named other czars to respond to the pandemic. Bases Conversion and Development Authority chief Vince Dizon was appointed testing czar, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar as isolation czar, Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong as contact tracing czar, while Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega was appointed treatment czar.