NTF officials slam ex-adviser Leachon, defend COVID-19 vaccine purchase

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 1) — National Task Force Against COVID-19 officials on Wednesday criticized former special adviser Dr. Tony Leachon following his remarks on the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines purchased by the government.

In a Palace briefing, NTF chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez questioned Leachon's expertise.

"Hindi po siya expert sa usaping bakuna. Nakikita po natin ang kanyang mga data ay skewed at malicious. Ang talagang ano po ng vaccine expert panel ay lahat po ng bakuna is very effective," said Galvez, a retired military general.

[Translation: He's not an expert when it comes to vaccines. We can see that his data is skewed and malicious. What the vaccine expert panel has said is that all vaccines are very effective.]

Just this week, Leachon raised the need to "rationalize the choice and procurement" of vaccines to ensure they address the threat of the feared Delta variant of the coronavirus.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, the health reform advocate also described the country's COVID-19 situation as a "perfect storm," as seen in factors like record-breaking cases, doubling of positivity rate, active cases, and occupancy of ICU beds. 

NTF deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon stood by the country's vaccine portfolio, which is composed of both Western and Asian brands.

"Assuming po si Sec. Galvez ay hindi po umorder ng iba't ibang mga bakuna sa ating current portfolio tulad ng Sinovac at iba pang mga bakuna, tingin niyo po ba aabot po tayo ng 33.7 million doses administered?" Dizon said in response to Leachon's remarks.

[Translation: Assuming Secretary Galvez did not order different vaccine brands for our current portfolio like Sinovac and other brands, do you think we could still administer 33.7 million doses?]

"Tingin niyo po ba aabot po tayo ng 14 million fully vaccinated Filipinos ngayon na 'yung supply ng Western vaccines ay napakahirap kumuha?" he added.

[Translation: Do you think we could still have 15 million fully vaccinated Filipinos given that it's very difficult to secure supply of Western vaccines?]

'Posturing' to become Health Secretary

Galvez also accused Leachon of "posturing" to become Health secretary, noting that Leachon used to criticize the activities of the Department of Health and Health Secretary Francisco Duque when he was still part of the NTF.

In a tweet, Leachon said he always cheers up "immensely" if an attack is out to silence him.

"I think, well, if they attack me personally, it means they have not a single, correct and logical argument left," he added.

Leachon also told CNN Philippines he does not aspire for any government position, adding that it seems Galvez is "already bereft of any logical argument on the issues at hand" that the vaccine czar must resort to personal attacks.

"This is the kind of leadership that we have right now," Leachon said.

Leachon left the task force in June 2020 after he was told to resign following his rant against the DOH.

Asked who he thinks is best fit to lead the DOH, Leachon said Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega is the "competent guy" to run the department.

Leachon added that it's time to fire Duque amid the "failed pandemic response" and the corruption issues surrounding the Health department under his leadership.

"At the time na kailangan mo ng magaling na (when you need a good) captain of the ship in this perfect storm, may problema tayo (we have a problem)," he said.