Why Not an IATF Shakeup?
“If somebody can whisper to the President (Rodrigo Duterte), call for a summit, and try to think of a blue print, and then identify what we should do, and then assign people and delegate authority,” said Dr. Anthony Leachon, now the chairman of the Movement Against COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).
In an interview over Koffee Klatch on Saturday, April 24, hosted by Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) Undersecretary Jacinto “Jing”Paras, a former congressman from Negros Oriental, and professional host and beauty queen Z. Saldua, Leachon also said there is a need to restructure the IATF and learn from Israel’s successful fight against COVID-19.
The former senior adviser to the IATF said the Philippines can learn from Israel’s successful roll out of its COVID vaccination program, adding that vaccination is still the key to ending the pandemic so the economy can reopen.
A Composite IATF
Leachon, an expert and in-demand resource person on the pandemic, proposed that the IATF be transformed to a composite team to primarily launch a vaccination program.
“They should actually be transforming the IATF into a vaccine launch team and put in persons who work in the pharmaceutical industry, epidemiologists, mathematicians, logistics and distributions,” Leachon said.
On the IATF, Leachon said it should be transformed into a “vaccine launch team” so the Philippines can have a steady supply of COVID vaccines.
“(The IATF should become) a composite team of experts with knowledge in pharmaceutical medicine, clinical, medical, logistics, distribution, marketing and sales, procurement and everything,” he added.
Herd Immunity Model
What Israel did was place orders for COVID-19 vaccines with Pfizer as early as July last year, with Israel President Benjamin Netanyahu contacting the president of the pharmaceutical firm who had Jewish blood.
So, by January this year, Leachon iterated, Israel was able to start its COVID-19 vaccination roll out and vaccinated at least 50 percent of its population by March, allowing herd immunity to be attained and for the government to reopen the Israeli economy.
“So they started vaccinating in January, and last week they reopened because 50 percent of the population was vaccinated,” Leachon said.
Israel’s successful vaccine roll out can be attributed to Netanyahu forming a composite team of experts made up of the country’s brightest minds, adding that Israel had a lot of graduates form Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
On the choice of vaccines, Leachon said the country should have gone for brands like Pfizer and AstraZeneca that have proven records in developing vaccines.
He said that while the Philippines can get vaccines from China, the country is somehow hostaged by the crisis in the West Philippine Sea.
“We are hostaged right now. We need to have multiple options (on vaccines),” Leachon said.
Early Orders On Stay
The Philippines could have gotten 10 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines as early as January this year, citing Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Romualdez and Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. were negotiating through diplomatic channels with Pfizer as early as May last year.
However, the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for to close the deal with Pfizer was not submitted.
“The 10 million (Pfizer COVID doses would be) good enough to vaccinate half of Metro Manila,” Leachon said, adding that if that happened, Metro Manila will achieve herd immunity by July this year.
“In this kind of crisis, vaccines will end the pandemic,” he said.
“We cannot reopen the economy if the virus is there and out,” Leachon added.
On his position on the use of Ivermectin, Leachon said the law should be followed.
“I am a law-abiding citizen, if that (Ivermectin) is unregistered with US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and FDA here, morally and legally, you cannot do that (prescribe Ivermectin), even if you have good intentions,” he said.
Leachon said that in the end, it should be the FDA that should approve Ivermectin’s use to treat COVID-19.
“If we put right now the law into the hands of the politicians and other persons, then why did we create FDA, then let us abolish FDA,” he said.
Leachon said that if Ivermectin should also be subjected to from randomized controlled trials, involving placebo group, with 40,000 studies approved by a regulatory agency.
“Who will be responsible for side effects, and the deaths of these people (who will use Ivermectin),” he said.
“Let us not use Congress and Senate to pressure the FDA,” Leachon added. SOVEREIGNPH