Issue of January 10, 2021
     
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Localize anti-Covid vaccine procurement

The meaning of “czar” in the dictionary is “a person with dictatorial power, an autocrat.” It is not really a title that anybody can be proud of. It is one specifically reserved for the then emperor of Russia. Yet, that is the title that retired Army General Carlito Galvez is being called. He is the vaccine czar. Why he revels in this title is a sort of a mystery given the historical insignificance of the term.

At any rate, the exact parameters of Galvez’s authority as the vaccine czar have not been set forth with clarity. It is not known whether it is absolute or is limited by the constraints of government regulations. Thus, several questions are begging to be answered.

Foremost, will he be the only person who can purchase the anti-Covid-19 vaccine on behalf of the Filipinos? Will his authority exclude all others from dealing with the multi-national companies respecting the acquisition of the vaccine? Can he outsource the delivery of the antigen? How will he finance the project? Is he at liberty to determine who may and may not be inoculated? What will be the cost of the vaccine? Can he give it for free?

As it stands and judging by his title, it would seem apparent that he has been given the sweeping authority on any matter pertaining to the acquisition, distribution, and administration of the anti-Covid formula. Authoritative. Dictatorial. Familiar terms that we have become wary of. To grant this authority into the hands of an individual might constitute a dangerous precedent, no matter how noble his intentions may be. It will breed favoritism and all doubts that he will not discriminate cannot escape our thoughts. It is human nature.

Hence, as early as now, Galvez is being criticized. He is being asked to abdicate some of his powers. Autocrats do not abdicate their powers, but the vaccine czar knows that he cannot do it alone. So, the move to decentralize the acquisition, distribution, and administration of the anti-Covid vaccine is underway.

Towards this end, several local government units have earmarked their own funds to purchase the vaccine for their respective constituents. Taking the lead is Makati City which earmarked P1 billion to acquire the most potent vaccine for its people. Once acquired, it will be injected for free. As justified by Mayor Abby Binay: “This is our number one priority for 2021. I want each and every Makatizen to receive both doses of the coronavirus vaccine for free to protect them and their families against the virus.”

Valenzuela City, Caloocan City, Malabon City, and Quezon City are not far behind. These Metro Manila cities, recognizing the need to be in line to purchase the antidote against the virus, have appropriated substantial sums of their own money to protect their people. Will Baguio City follow suit? I pray and hope so. More than the aforementioned cities, Baguio needs the anti-Covid vaccine given that the past few months have seen a surge in the number of infected persons.

With Makati and other Metro Manila cities trailblazing, it paves the way for a good example that localizing the purchase of the antigen is better than centralizing the anti-Covid program in just one person. Localizing the acquisition, distribution, and administration of the vaccine is more convenient, more expeditious and less expensive for the national government. It hastens the process of immunizing all Filipinos because the local government units are in the best position to know who are in need of the vaccine the most. It further optimizes familiarity and eradicates political patronage.

In the end, the title czar is really a misnomer. The participation of each LGU in this problem remains to be the best solution. Their involvement in the purchase, distribution, and administration of the vaccine is indispensable, to say the least.

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