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Bigger budget for COVID vaccine pushed

THE government should allocate at least P1,000 for every poor Filipino for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine.

Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor pushed for additional budget allocation for the procurement of vaccines next year.

The target of the government is to vaccinate an initial 20 million poor Filipinos.

Defensor, chairman of the House committee on public accounts, said that to meet this target, the budget for the procuring COVID-19 vaccines should be P20 billion at least.

Under the proposed 2021 national budget, only P2.5 billion is being allocated for the purchase of the vaccines.

“That means an average of P1,000 per Filipino to be inoculated. Health professionals are saying one would need two to three doses to fight the infectious new coronavirus. If that is so, P1,000 would translate to P500 per dose, if two doses are needed, and P333, if three doses are required,” he said.

“Since what rich countries and drug companies are developing is a new vaccine, “we will be lucky if we could get it at less than P500 per dose,” Defensor added.

He added that the P2.5 billion included in the proposed 2021 national budget for Covid-19 vaccine procurement “is just a small fraction of what the government needs to vaccinate an initial target of 20 million poor Filipinos.”

He pointed out that the initial target is only roughly one-fifth or 20 percent of the country’s entire population.

He said assuming the vaccine would cost P500 per dose and one would require two doses, the P2.5 billion in next year’s budget would be good only for 2.5 million Filipinos.

“And President Duterte is aiming to inoculate all 113 million Filipinos. Clearly, there is a need for us to provide sufficient funds. There is still time to do it because the proposed budget is still with us in Congress,” the solon stressed.

Defensor noted that the Department of Health has estimated its funding requirement for 20 million poor Filipinos at P12.9 billion, or P645 per vaccinee.