Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday said he is concerned over the government’s lack of a coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to ensure that the country will get immediate access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Drilon said the paltry budget of P2.5-billion for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines for next year “does not give us comfort either” saying the meager allocation for the purchase of vaccines under the National Expenditures Program (NEP) indicates poor planning by the Department of Health (DOH).
“I hope the government understands that this COVID-19 vaccine to be developed is a life saver. Our survival as a nation largely depends on our ability to immediately provide vaccines to our people,” Drilon said in a statement.
“Therefore, I urge the government to take a more proactive approach in dealing with this critical issue. There are means and channels they can explore to secure that our country will not be left out when it comes to the administration of vaccines that are expected to be made available next year,” Drilon said.
“We would like to see a comprehensive coronavirus vaccine distribution plan. The Philippines can participate in bilateral and multilateral efforts to secure immediate access to vaccines,” he added.
Drilon said the Philippine government should consider entering the COVAX facility—a financing mechanism that helps low and middle-income countries get access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.
He said that most highly-developed countries have already pre-purchased orders from vaccine manufacturers such as the United States, United Kingdom, European Union Countries, Canada, and Japan.
This kind of facility can help the Philippines get access to eventual COVID-19 vaccines, Drilon said.
“While it is a reality that the country cannot compete with much developed countries, the government should ensure that the country will not be left out or pushed to the back of the queue when it comes to vaccine procurement,” he added.
“There are low and middle-income countries such as Brazil and Indonesia that have also made advance orders,” he said, adding that Indonesia and the Philippines have the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia.
With only P2.5 billion allocation for vaccine procurement for 2021, Drilon lamented that “the future looks dim insofar as COVID-19 vaccine is concerned” as the amount won’t be able to cover 20 million Filipinos.
Even the DOH itself, he said, admitted that the budget for the acquisition of COVID-19-vaccines is short of P10-billion. Logistical requirements, including storage facilities, will require a huge budget.
“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 a comprehensive coronavirus vaccine distribution plan,” he said.
“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 added.