“BUYING THE vaccine is not the end-all-be-all solution. It will require substantial funding and complex logistics. Who will administer the vaccines? Should we hire additional staff? Is the current DOH workforce enough to administer it to 20 million Filipinos? Where do we plan to store the vaccines?”
So, raised Senate minority leader Franklin M. Drilonserious concerns about the country’s preparedness to conduct mass vaccinations once the coronavirus vaccines become available.
Even as he expressed to the policy direction laid out by “vaccine czar” Carlito Galvez Jr., of government intending to purchase an initial batch of 24 million Covid-19 vaccines once they become available next year, Drilon warned that the proposed P4.5 trillion 2021 national budget “does not support that vision” as it only earmarks a measly P2.4 billion for Covid-19 vaccines procurement.
“We support the intention. There is a disconnect, however, between the government’s pronounced policy and the 2021 national budget. The National Expenditures Program for 2021 has not allocated sufficient funding for distributing and administering Covid-19 vaccines,” the senator said in a statement Sunday.
“Obviously, the P2.4 billion earmarked for next year to purchase Covid-19 vaccines is grossly insufficient. The DOH said so that we are short of P10 billion but I believe it is way beyond that,” he added, citing huge logistical and human resource requirements.
Furthered Drilon: “That is why we will be pushing for more budget for the procurement and administration of potential coronavirus vaccines. Congress has to appropriate money to buy the vaccine and the best time to do it is now while we are deliberating on the spending outlay.”
Earlier, Drilon prodded the government to actively participate in bilateral and multilateral efforts to secure immediate access to vaccines.
He cited the COVAX facility, a financing mechanism that helps low- and middle-income countries get access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines.
“Clearly, the budget is not enough. I am dismayed at the apparent business-as-usual approach to this. It is reflected both in the budget and the apparent lack of acomprehensive coronavirus vaccine distribution plan,” rued Drilon.
“We will tackle the 2021 national budget on the floor in the coming weeks and it is the best opportunity to debate on this issue. We must remember that public financing ensures widespread vaccination. We cannot leave it to the private sector,” he stressed.
But will the Duterte administration even care to listen?