Albay Rep. Joey Salceda has called for more equity in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as more supplies continue to arrive in the country, saying the process has been "grossly unequal," leaving behind regions like Bicol and the Bangsamoro "far behind."
Salceda, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee and co-chairs the Defeat COVID-19 Ad Hoc panel, said healthcare capacity is “segmented in the regions,” thus the need to vaccinate the vulnerable to avoid hospitalization.
“Vaccination is very crucial for our provinces, especially for regions as geographically dispersed or expansive as Bicol. While it’s easier for one from Caloocan to seek medical attention in Muntinlupa, it is virtually impossible in Bicol, if say residents from Catanduanes or Masbate have to go to Camarines Norte for a similar purpose," he said.
Citing available data, Salceda said the National Capital Region has among the highest share of vaccinated residents, at around 26.5 percent as of July 4, while at the bottom of the list are Region 5 (Bicol) where only 2.73 percent of its population got vaccinated, and further down is the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao where only 1.52 percent of its people got vaccinated.
“The point of the vaccine is to prevent hospitalizations. So, you have to bring it to places where hospitalization is a very difficult option. I understand that we are giving large doses of vaccines to centers of economic activity, such as NCR, but the disparities are just too huge,” he said.
He said if most of the doses are concentrated in a few areas, there will still be a "nationwide COVID-19 issue."
“The National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 under Secretary Galvez has been very open to engaging the regions. I hope it will allocate more vaccines to the regions. It’s a matter of survival for those from areas with under-equipped healthcare facilities,” he said.
The NTF has vowed to speed up equitable distribution of vaccines as more supplies are bound to arrive in the country in the coming months.