Health department seeks additional P10 billion to fund COVID-19 vaccine

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 19 2020 04:49 PM

This handout picture taken on Aug. 6, 2020 and provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund shows the vaccine against the coronavirus disease, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology. Russian Direct Investment Fund, AFP/Handout

MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) is seeking an additional P10 billion in funds to buy COVID-19 vaccine in order to inoculate 20 percent of the country’s population, the agency’s spokesperson said Monday.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a virtual press briefing, said the initial P2.5 billion set aside in the proposed 2021 national budget would not cover the vaccination of priority groups, which included health workers and indigent Filipinos.

According to the agency’s estimate, DOH will need around P12.1 billion to procure the vaccines, she said.

Amid a P10 billion shortfall, Vergeire said part of the government’s unprogrammed funds had been committed for the procurement of the vaccines.

Meanwhile, members of Congress have also pledged to increase the budget to address the agency’s needs in responding to the crisis, she added.

“They all gave their commitment na talagang when it comes to vaccines, kung magkano ang kailangan (if how much we need), they would be supporting us,” Vergeire said.

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte said he had found funds to buy vaccines against coronavirus once it becomes available.

“I have found funds. I have the money already for the vaccine, but I will still find other sources of funds because there are already 113 million Filipinos today. And to me, ideally, all should have the vaccine without exception,” he said in Filipino.

In July, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the Philippines had a financing plan to purchase at least 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to be administered for free to the poorest 20 million Filipinos.

The Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) can finance the procurement, which is payable in 2 to 3 years.

If the 20 million poorest Filipinos need 2 shots each, estimated at $10 (P500) per dose, that would be $400 million or "roughly P20 billion," Dominguez had said.