By Vatican News staff writer
Caritas Philippines has echoed the call of Pope Francis and prominent Church bodies and leaders across the world to make the Covid-19 vaccine “available for all”. Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, the national director of Caritas Philippines made the call following the controversial vaccination of members of President Rodrigo Duterte's security team, despite the lack of the regulatory approval of such a vaccine for the nation.
Bishop Bagaforo said that “it was irresponsible to allow the breach of the regulatory process” and lamented that the “government is actually tolerating such imprudent and unauthorized action, even if PSG [Presidential Security Group] is saying the vaccines were donated.”
Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the regulatory body that approves a vaccine for the country, has not passed any Covid-19 vaccine yet. In a statement on Monday, the FDA warned against the use of unauthorised vaccines, noting there was "no guarantee on the safety, quality and efficacy" of a drug that has not undergone technical evaluation by the regulator.
Duterte earlier said that his goal was to provide a free vaccine to all 113 million Filipinos. Earlier in June 2020, Caritas Philippines joined the global call to make the COVID vaccine available for all. President Rodrigo Duterte also said that his goal was to provide free vaccine to all 113 million Filipinos. However, the Department of Finance said that they are still to source out 73.2 billion pesos to pay for the vaccination of 60 million population.
Vaccine for all
On several occasions, Pope Francis has called on governments and international agencies to make the vaccine available for all. “May the Son of God renew in political and government leaders a spirit of international cooperation, starting with health care so that all will be ensured access to vaccines and treatment," he said in his Christmas Day “Urbi et Orbi” message. A few Vatican offices have also repeated his calls.
Fr. Antonio Labiao Jr., Caritas Philippines’ executive secretary, urged the authorities “to speed up all regulatory processes so that vaccines will be available” to all as soon as possible. He also stressed that while they agree on the list of priority sectors to be vaccinated first, “it is imperative for the government to ensure that majority of the Filipinos will have access to the vaccines when it is already available for mass use.” “In this time of the pandemic, we must strive to do away with selfish interests,” Father Labiao added.
Bishop Bagaforo said the Caritas Philippines is ready to assist the government in easing the burden of Filipinos, especially in the most marginalized communities. Since March, the Caritas network has been able to provide more than 1 billion pesos worth of assistance through its national partners, and Caritas Internationalis. “Our goal,” Bishop Bagaforo stressed, “has always been to prioritize aid corresponding to the needs of the vulnerable Filipinos.”
“We will continue to be vigilant, especially of government actions, to ensure that the rights, welfare and dignity of the Filipino people prevail over political machinations, vested interests, and greed for power,” he added.
The Department of Health reported 1,541 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, with the year-end total a little over 474,000. 14 fresh deaths were reported to take the total to 9,244. Authorities fear a surge in infections after the holiday season.