Who dropped the ball? Locsin’s intriguing tweet on Philippines’ vaccine plan

December 16, 2020 - 1:20 PM
Teddy Locsin in office
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in his office at this photo uploaded by the Department of Foreign Affairs on Facebook on July 2, 2020. (Photo from Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of the Philippines via Facebook)

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. has yet to reveal the official whom he claimed foiled the plan to secure a vaccine to prevent the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19.

In a quote retweet on Tuesday, December 15, Locsin claimed that “somebody dropped the ball” on the plan to secure 10 million doses of vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech, which was the first to declare a 95% efficacy rate, by January.

Locsin and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez arranged this with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank were also supposed to finance the vaccines.

“But somebody dropped the ball. I have steel ball bearings. I just need a slingshot,” part of his tweet read.

Several reporters and personalities, including Tony Leachon, former consultant of the National Task Force against COVID-19, urged him to disclose who halted the plan at the expense of Filipinos.

Locsin, however, has not mentioned names yet.

In his quote retweet on Wednesday, December 16, he only stated he and Romualdez were “brilliant” in handling the negotiations with Pfizer and Moderna, another US-based vaccine maker eyed to administer vaccines in the country.

“Babe and I did our brilliant job. Next thing it was questioned as Pfizer/Moderna demanding money down when that was never asked. Babe and I moving on to more challenges equally brilliantly surmounted,” Locsin said.

“Babe and I will wear RayBan when we meet face to face because of our shared radiance,” he added.

It was a reaction from a tweet of Leachon who suggested that Locsin should discuss his issue with President Rodrigo Duterte.

Leachon also raised concern over why Pfizer, whose vaccine has a high efficacy, was not among the firms considered to supply vaccines to the Philippines.

“It would have been great if you could discuss with the PRRD who dropped the ball and why we missed the bus? It’s also worrisome why Pfizer vaccine has not been considered for local EUA despite FDA approval in six countries with UK starting vaccination last week,” he said.

Even former poll commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal pressed Locsin.

“The Philippines had the opportunity to buy from other brands/countries. But what happened? Who slipped and dropped the ball? Why did we miss the bus?” Larrazabal said.

Locsin responsed to another of Larrazabal’s tweets perceiving that the government “acted too late” in vaccine procurement.

“There are none so slow as those who never had the intention to catch the bus,” he said.

Leachon, in separate tweets, also sought answers on the matter and continued to question the government’s preference for China’s Sinovac despite the latter’s alleged lack of transparency.

The health advocate previously earned the ire of Roque and his ex-colleague Carlito Galvez Jr. over his remarks against Sinovac.

Read: Leachon is opposing gov’t prioritization of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine (philstar.com)

“Why are we buying a vaccine for mass vaccination without credible efficacy and safety data in lieu of vaccines with proven regulatory documents just because we missed the bus? We did not queue up early for vaccines with R and D background. Who dropped the ball?” one of his tweets read.

Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson likewise echoed their views and suggested to have this person be replaced.

“Mr. Secretary, who dropped the ball? We couldn’t care less if he’s your captain ball. Huddle with your coach to replace him immediately. This is one game we can’t lose,” Lacson said.

How did the government react?

In the press briefing on Tuesday, when a reporter inquired presidential spokesperson Harry Roque about Locsin’s claim, Roque stated that he also has “no idea” on who the diplomat was referring to.

“Would you know this development since you are also IATF?” the reporter asked.

To this, Roque replied: “No. I have no idea who dropped the ball. Please ask Secretary Locsin.”

He, however, dismissed criticisms that the Duterte administration was late in seeking international cooperation to secure vaccines from other pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer.

“Malinaw na malinaw po na no less than our Secretary of Foreign Affairs negotiated with his counterpart in the US, Secretary Pompeo, para tayo po ay magkaroon ng supply ng Pfizer. So, hindi naman po tayo nagkulang diyan at mayroon talaga pong kasunduan na bibigyan tayo ng Pfizer,” Roque said.

While he could not identify the exact date of negotiations, he said Locsin already made arrangements with Pfizer on vaccine procurement.

“Alam ko po maaga pa nakipag-negotiate na po si Secretary Locsin dahil naaalala ko po iyang meeting na iyan pero maagang-maaga pa po in 2020 eh nakipag-negotiate na po si Secretary Locsin. Hindi lang nakipag-negotiate, nakipagkasundo pa na bibigyan tayo ng Amerika ng Pfizer,” he said.