DOH urged to propose funds for COVID-19 vaccine

A Mindanaoan solon urged the Department of Heath (DOH) to include in its 2021 budget proposal the funds for the procurement of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said the House of Representatives is supporting the budget for the procurement of vaccines.

“Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has already declared that the House of Representatives is prepared to appropriate funds for the vaccine. I am suggesting that the DOH already incorporate in its budget proposal its estimated funding requirement for the doses the country needs to protect our people from coronavirus,” Rodriguez said.

According to Rodriguez, it is the DOH and not Congress or any other agency that has the expertise for coming up with estimates based on its institutional knowledge on the cost of previous vaccines and its access to manufacturers.

“We will have to rely on them especially considering that the COVID-19 vaccine is yet to be found, though several countries and pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop it,” he said.

The Executive department is now on budget planning for 2021.

The National Expenditure Program, which contains the proposed 2021 national budget, is expected to be submitted to Congress after the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 27.

Budget and finance officials have announced that the budget ceiling would be P4.3 trillion, about P200 billion more than this year’s P4.1 trillion.

Rodriguez said there is still time for the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management to make adjustments to accommodate appropriations for COVID-19 vaccines.

He pointed out that the administration has a constitutional deadline of one month from July 27 to submit to Congress its proposed budget for 2021.

“If the DOH needs more time after the budget proposal is submitted, they should tell us. We can wait for their estimates and we can introduce the needed adjustments while the House is considering the spending measure,” Rodriguez said.

Earlier, Speaker Cayetano said he preferred that funds be already appropriated in case a vaccine for the coronavirus disease is developed and available on the market.