P200-B needed for COVID-19 vaccination --- Sen. Gatchalian

The Philippines may need to set aside about P200 billion to cover the entire Filipino population in its vaccination program against COVID-19.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian gave the estimate amid the government's plan to purchase COVID-19 vaccines that are currently being developed in other countries.

"Ang own estimate namin (Our own estimate) is about P200 billion, to give vaccine or inoculate all of our population. Ang aming estimate is all (We considered all in our estimate). Dahil ang vaccine is to prevent, pati 'yong mga bata mapeprevent from getting infected (Because the use of the vaccine is to prevent everyone, even children, from getting infected)," Gatchalian said in an online interview with reporters, citing their research.

"In a perfect setting, lahat tayo, dapat mabigyan ng vaccine (all of us should be given the vaccine)," he added.

The Department of Finance earlier said that the government has enough funds to purchase of vaccines for 20 million Filipinos at two doses each. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said roughly US$400 million or P20 billion would be needed to finance this.

The Philippine population was projected to hit 110 million this year, from the 100.98 million recorded in the 2015 census by the Philippine Statistics Authority. The census, done every five years, was rescheduled from May to September this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Gatchalian said that while the funds for the procurement of vaccines were not explicitly provided for under proposed "Bayanihan to Recover as One Act", or Bayanihan 2, the government will be allowed to allocate a budget for this purpose.

Under the Senate's version of the Bayanihan 2, the delivery of an "uninterrupted immunization program against vaccine-preventable diseases, especially on children" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Wednesday that he will propose the inclusion of a budget for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, but he said this would have to be sourced from the proposed allocations for the recovery of hard-hit sectors.

The Bayanihan 2 is now up for discussion in Congress' bicameral conference committee, whose members will meet next week.