Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto is pushing for increased funding for the purchase and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines under the 2021 national budget.
Recto said the P18-billion proposed allocation being pushed in Senate for next year’s budget could cover only 1 in 5 Filipinos, or 20 percent of the population, even if the government purchases the cheapest vaccine available in the market.
During the Senate’s plenary debates on the Department of Health’s (DOH) proposed 2020 budget Wednesday, Senator Pia Cayetano noted that World Health Organization recommended a herd immunity of 60 percent to finally break the transmission of the disease.
Cayetano said that based on the costing of the DOH, the cheapest vaccine, the one developed by AztraZeneca, will cost about P610 per person and the most expensive is the one from Chinese Sinopharm, at around P17,690 per person for two doses.
The AstraZeneca vaccine would cost the government some P15 billion to cover 24 million, or 20 percent of the population, she said.
Further, the two senators observed that there was no budget for the expenses on the storage, distribution and inoculation of the vaccine.
Cayetano said the government would need P7 billion more to cover expenses for supply chain and protective equipment for health workers, as well as post vaccination-surveillance, among others.
In the initial budget proposal of the Senate, P10 billion of the P18-billion vaccine fund are placed under the unprogrammed appropriations, or those that are available when government revenue collection exceed targets or when additional grants or foreign funds are generated.
Recto proposed to appropriate as unprogrammed funds at least P20 billion and another P20 billion for the delivery of the vaccines.
“The cost of this pandemic to our economy this year will roughly be P1.9 trillion, the contraction of the economy. The lost opportunity is roughly another P1.9 trillion and here we are haggling with what? P50 billion?” he said.
“The distribution probably will be more expensive than the vaccine itself,” he said.
Cayetano shared Recto’ s view, calling on her colleagues support for more allocation for the vaccines.
Recto said on Thursday that he is optimistic that the government will be able to address the possible challenges that the COVID-19 immunization would pose.