ANAKALUSUGAN party-list Rep. Mike Defensor on Tuesday urged the House of Representatives to increase funds allocated for the procurement of coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) vaccines next year.
Defensor, chairman of the House committee on public accounts, said the P2.5 billion included in the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget for 2021 for COVID-19 vaccines “will not be enough for a significant number of poor Filipinos, health care personnel and other front-line workers who should be our priority in protecting our people against this infectious virus and disease.”
“Even Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado and the Department of Health (DOH) have admitted that the funding is good for just a small fraction of our population,” said Defensor.
Defensor recalled that in a recent testimony before the Senate, Avisado said: “Hindi po kalakihan ‘yan but we have already agreed with the Department of Finance and even with the President that kung kinakailangan, there has to be a way that we can come up with a source of funds for this.”
According to the budget secretary, the government is targeting to vaccinate an initial 3.8 million Filipinos.
Defensor said DoH officials, on the other hand, have told the House that they plan to inoculate 20 million poor Filipinos.
“They estimate that they would need P12.9 billion. Since they have P2.5 billion in the proposed 2021 budget, they intend to source the shortfall from borrowings,” he said.
He urged the House to fund the entire P12.9 billion the DoH would need for COVID-19 vaccines by realigning appropriations in next year’s outlay instead of allowing the DoH to resort to loans.
“There is enough room in the budget proposal for realignments. For instance, we can reduce allocations for non-essential expenses like travel, dining and entertainment to finance the procurement of vaccines,” he said.
Defensor also urged the DoH to review its Covid-19 vaccination funding estimate.
“P12.9 billion for 20 million poor Filipinos amounts to an average of P645. Is P645 for one dose or two doses? It is enough to immunize each of the 20 million against the new coronavirus and COVID-19 disease?”
Defensor said health professionals have projected that one would need at least two doses of a potent vaccine to shield him from the infectious virus and return to normal life.