CONGRESS should allocate at least P20 billion for the procurement of a coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) vaccine next year if the government is aiming to vaccinate an initial 20 million poor Filipinos, Anakalusugan party-list Rep. Mike Defensor said Friday.
“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,” Defensor, a vice chairman of the House committee on health, 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, chairman of the House committee on public accounts, said.
Defensor 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.
The House leader 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,” he said.
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.
“Their estimate means that a dose would cost only P322.50, if two doses are needed. I hope they are right. But there’s no harm in allocating an amount that would exceed the actual cost of the vaccine. The excess would be used in procuring more vaccines, which means more Filipinos would be vaccinated,” he stressed.