Govt to allot P20 billion for Covid-19 vaccine purchase; eyeing to give 20-million poor citizens free immunization

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THE government will spend P20 billion to buy the vaccines for novel coronavirus disease (Covid-19), as soon as these become available later this year.

On Thursday, President Duterte revealed the government’s planned vaccination drive against Covid-19 to help “normalize” the situation in the country.

He said among the Covid vaccines they are now considering to purchase are those being developed in China.

This, after the Chinese government issued a statement earlier this week that the Philippines will be among the countries to be given first crack in purchasing their completed Covid-19 vaccine.

Government loan

Finance Secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez III, however, noted the Department of Health (DOH) will determine which Covid-19 vaccine/s will be bought by the government through the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC).

He said the purchase will be financed by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

“The GFI [government financial institutions] will fund PITC’s purchase with a term loan for the purchase of the vaccines identified by the DOH, PITC will sell the vaccines to the DOH,” Dominguez told reporters in a Viber message.

The finance chief said the DOH is targeting the inoculation of an initial 20 million people against Covid-19 for free.

Target beneficiaries

Duterte said the government will prioritize poor families, who received social amelioration program benefits from the government during the community quarantine, in the vaccination drive.

He said middle income, Cabinet officials, as well as the army and the police, and even communist rebels will be among those to also be given the vaccine if they will stop attacking government forces during the Covid-19 crisis.

However, Duterte said the rich, who can afford the vaccine, and illegal-drug users and pushers, who “destroy” the country, will not be covered by the free vaccination drive.

Duterte said he will task the military to distribute the government-acquired Covid-19 vaccines.

Dominguez expressed hope all businesses can fully reopen and economic recovery hastened after the implementation of the vaccination drive.

Bong Go: Prepare plans now

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, reiterated his call for the Department of Health and other concerned agencies to prepare a national Covid-19 vaccine program in order to ensure the accessibility and affordability of the vaccine, once it is made available, even to the poorest of the poor and, most especially, to the vulnerable sectors.

“When the day comes a vaccine and a cure for Covid-19 become avalilable, we should be ready to give these to all Filipinos who need them, especially the poor,” Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go said in Filipino.

In a statement, Go warned that difficult decisions will have to be made once a vaccine is available. Hence, he stressed the need to anticipate possible scenarios in order to ensure the vaccine is accessible to those most in need.

In a speech at the recent virtual launch of the country’s 77th Malasakit Center in Guimaras, Go said preparations for the availability of the vaccine are already being discussed and developed by the country’s health officials and finance managers.

The senator said he has been “urging government to have a vaccine program” this early, and “to prioritize the poor, because I know that once a vaccine is available, there will be a mad rush for it and I don’t want anyone profiteering from it.”

When it comes to the availability and accessibility of the vaccine, “I don’t want our ordinary people who have no means to buy the vaccine to come last. Everyone should have a fair chance at access,” he explained further, in a mix of English and Filipino.

Image credits: AP

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