Limited budget for COVID-19 vaccine purchase in 2021 to be augmented by bank loans --- DOH

Only 20 percent of the P12.9 billion needed to purchase vaccines against COVID-19 has been included in the proposed operational budget of the Department of Health (DOH) next year.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Vergeire (Facebook)

DOH officials made this revelation even as clinical trials for the vaccine endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO)  for the Solidarity trials are expected to start next month.

In the budget hearing for the P127 billion proposed 2021 allocation for DOH, Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said WHO is expected to announce within September the areas where clinical trials will be conducted.

“WHO ang pipili ng ilan sa mga bakuna na nasa advance stages at isasama sa clinical trials.  Baka makapag-umpisa na ang clinical trials ng WHO bago matapos and October (WHO will choose certain vaccines in advance stages that will be included in the clinical trials.  Its possible WHO clinical trials will start before the end of October),” Vergeire told members of the House Committee on Appropriations yesterday.

But while the Philippines is assured access to the successful Solidarity trial vaccine, it might resort to borrowing money to be able to purchase enough to protect Filipinos against COVID 19.

Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje admitted that only P2.5 million has been allocated for the purpose, even while a minimum P12.9 million may be needed for the vaccination program.

Cabotaje said this will prompt government to resort to loans to be able to cover the cash shortage for the vaccine.

“Uutang po sa Landbank, the purchase will be made by PITC-Pharmaceutical under DTI (Departmnt of Trade)” the health official said.

To repay the loans, government will allocate loan servicing allocation in the proposed DOH budget in the coming years.’

Aside from problems on the availability of money to purchase anti-COVID 19 vaccines, Philippines, being a small nation, faces the prospect of losing out in the scramble for limited vaccine supplies.

Oxfam, a non-government organization, disclosed that wealthy nations have already been assured of getting more than 50 percent of the estimated vaccine production next year.

“What will be produced next year, may not be able to meet global demands,” Cabotaje said.

Thus, whatever vaccine the Philippine may acquire will be injected first to medical frontliners.