MANILA — The Philippines needs to set aside P90 billion to bankroll the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines in 2022, a senator said on Friday, as he enumerated what lawmakers and pandemic "czars" discussed in a recent meeting.
Sen. Ping Lacson said he and and Senate President Vicente Sotto III met with the officials, who said they would "need P90 billion for next year’s vaccine procurement budget."
The officials asked that this be included in the regular budget of the health department "to ensure its availability," instead of putting it under un-programmed funds, Lacson said in a statement.
He said another P20 billion would be needed for the purchase of vaccines under "Bayanihan 3", the proposed third stimulus package to help the economy recover from the COVID-19 crisis
Lacson said he urged pandemic "czars" to check if this could be sourced from the unused appropriations of several executive agencies, "as it is allowed under the Constitution as well as the extended effectivity of the Bayanihan law already passed."
He said the meeting also discussed the business sector’s commitment "to make available spaces in malls and hotel ballrooms for some 5,000 vaccination centers, 1,200 of which are in the NCR (National Capital Region)."
The sites, he said, could inoculate some 58 million Filipinos by the end of the year, "assuming that enough doses will arrive as scheduled, which they (czars) said they are pursuing around the clock."
"Meantime, continuous simulations are being done to ensure efficiency at the proper time," said the senator.
Senators and the pandemic response leaders also discussed "immediate legislative action vs red tape in the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) that hampers government efforts" against COVID-19, Lacson said.
"We agreed on a plan to resolve [this] quickly enough," he said.
Vaccine "czar" Carlito Galvez Jr, who is also chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, has yet to reply to ABS-CBN News' request for comment.
The Philippines, which has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, aims to inoculate up tp 70 million people or two-thirds of its population against the respiratory disease this year.
Authorities have received 5.540 million COVID-19 shots, of which at east 2.065 million have been administered as of May 4.