MANILA — The government has set aside funds to buy 20 million poorest Filipinos a vaccine against COVID-19 if it becomes ready by yearend as the World Health Organization hopes, Malacañang said Wednesday.
“Naitabi na po natin ang budget para sa pagbili ng COVID-19 [vaccine]. Alam na natin ang mekanismo,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque told government-run PTV.
(We have set aside the budget for COVID-19 vaccine. We know the mechanism.)
“Bibili po tayo ng dosage, 2 dosage para sa 20 million na pinakahirap nating mga kababayan. Mauuna po ang mga mahihirap,” he added.
(We will buy 2 dosages each for our 20 million poorest compatriots. The poor will come first.)
The Philippine International Trading Corp will buy the vaccine, which will be financed by the LandBank and the Development Bank of the Philippines, he said.
The government has allotted an initial budget of P2.4 billion for COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health earlier said.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday called for solidarity and political commitment by all leaders to ensure equal distribution of vaccines when they become available.
"We will need vaccines and there is hope that by the end of this year we may have a vaccine. There is hope," Tedros said in final remarks to the WHO's Executive Board, without elaborating.
Nine experimental vaccines are in the pipeline of the WHO's COVAX global vaccine facility that aims to distribute 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.
President Rodrigo Duterte said his administration would prioritize coronavirus vaccines made by China and Russia, if they are proven safe and effective, even as he accused Western pharmaceutical companies of "profiting" amid the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left millions of Filipinos jobless, dragged the economy into recession, and locally sickened some 329,000 people.
— With a report from Reuters