Galvez thanks Senate for prioritizing purchase of booster shots in 2022

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. expressed gratitude to the Senate for supporting his proposal to use the P45 billion in "unprogrammed" appropriations in the proposed P5.024-trillion budget in 2022 for the procurement of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) booster shots.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. (facing) welcomes the arrival of 793,900 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19 which were donated by Germany to the Philippines through the COVAX facility on Nov. 9, 2021. (Photo: NTF Against COVID-19)

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that a booster shot is provided to a vaccinated population that has completed a primary vaccination series, which is either one or two doses of COVID-19 vaccine depending on the product. It aims to restore the effectiveness of vaccines as its efficacy wanes after several months.

Booster shots are different from an additional dose or third dose which is given to "optimize or enhance the immune response to establish a sufficient level of effectiveness against a disease." Among those given an additional dose are the immunocompromised individuals and senior citizens.

"I commend and extend our deepest gratitude to Senator Angara for supporting the proposal to utilize unprogrammed funds for vaccine procurement. This will certainly provide a major boost to our national immunization program," Galvez said in a statement Thursday, Nov. 11.

"As we have emphasized even before the rollout of our vaccine program, vaccinating our people against COVID-19 will be the key in preventing the spread of the disease, bringing down our active cases, breathing life into our nation’s economy and ensuring the safety of our children and our future," he added.

Angara, chairperson of the Senate committee on finance, emphasized during the plenary session for the 2022 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) last Wednesday that the procurement of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines remains a top priority of the government.

In the current Senate version of the 2022 GAB sponsored by Angara, a total of P61 billion has been allocated for vaccine procurement including the P45 billion in unprogrammed funds and P16.425 billion in programmed appropriations under the Department of Health (DOH).

To allay fears about the uncertainty of the release of the fund for booster shots, Angara said there are provisions in the budget which ensure that even the funds in the unprogrammed appropriations will be given.

"There is also a special provision which states that funds for vaccines shall be given utmost priority," the senator added.

During the Senate hearing, Galvez also reported that the government had already started procuring some 20 million doses of booster shots using the savings from the 2021 funds.

He previously stated that the government’s economic and diplomatic teams had already started negotiating with different multilateral partners which can provide funds to finance the procurement of booster shots next year.

For this year, the country has secured 197 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines including those procured by the government, donated through the COVAX facility and by bilateral partners, and purchased by the private sector and local government units.

These vaccine doses have a total contract cost of P80.34 billion.

As of November 10, the country has received a total of 118,112,370 COVID-19 vaccine doses from various manufacturers. The remaining undelivered vaccines are expected to arrive within the year.