COVID-19 vaccines expire, but the duty to tell the public how much they cost does not, Senator Chiz Escudero said in pressing the government anew to lift the “veil of secrecy” on all pandemic-era vaccine purchases.
“Millions of vaccine shots have unfortunately expired. But what does not go stale is the responsibility to disclose the details of the billions spent for them, ” Escudero said. “The vaccines do not carry an immunity from accountability.”
The veteran lawmaker demanded a full-blown audit on vaccine expenditures “because until today even the total amount spent could not be determined.”
“If you ask government agencies how much was spent for how many, you will get different answers, if that is you get a reply. May report na P300 billion at meron naman inamin sa floor ng Senate na P145 billion,” the seasoned lawmaker said.
“Vaccine purchases bloated our debt.”
“Vaccine purchases bloated our debt. We bought them using borrowed money, with our children’s future income as collateral. And yet we don’t know the full details of it,” the senator added.
But what concerns the Bicolano senator the most is that the cost of each dose remains “the greatest unsolved mystery” in public expenditures.
“’Yung tindahan na hindi nailagay ang presyo ng sardinas, may multa. Itong sa bukana, deadma.”
“Hanggang ngayon, walang price list na lumabas kung magkano ang Sinovac, ang Moderna, ang Pfizer at iba pa. And yet, we fine small grocery stores for not complying with the price tag law. ‘Yung tindahan na hindi nailagay ang presyo ng sardinas, may multa. Itong sa bukana, deadma,” he lamented.
Escudero doubts if the so-called “non-disclosure agreement” (NDA) that the government had signed with vaccine manufacturers prior to sale could be used as an excuse to hide procurement details.
“For one, the NDA goes against Section 6 (the transparency clause) of Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which requires the publication of the approved budget of contract and the amount of contract awarded on vaccine purchases,” he explained.
Escudero said the NDA is a “new breed of an excuse” to evade accountability and it should be stopped.
“Parang ang tumbok ng NDA ay hindi naman yung intellectual property but NDA na ‘no disclosure of amounts’ paid,” he said, adding that the NDA has also immobilized agencies from divulging details on the single biggest pandemic-era procurement by the government, creating a ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ culture,” he noted.
Escudero urged the Commission on Audit (COA) to subpoena documents and the Department of Health (DOH) and other agencies served to comply.
It was reported that out of the 245 million doses of COVID 19 vaccines that the government had bought or received for free, some 44 million had expired by the end of 2022.