Senators agree to increase proposed budget for COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 budget — Sotto
MANILA, Philippines — Senators have agreed to increase the funding for the procurement, storage, and distribution of vaccines for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) under the proposed P4.5-trillion 2021 budget, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Sunday.
Sotto, however, could not yet provide the specific amount agreed upon by the senators for the inoculation drive.
“Yes. I am not sure of the amount,” he said in a text message when asked to confirm if lawmakers from the Senate have agreed to increase the proposed funding for the vaccines.
Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate committee on finance, also confirmed this information.
“In principle, we have agreed but we will await the various proposals from the senators. We set a deadline of tonight for amendments before we vote on second reading so we will have a clearer picture in the next few days,” he said in a separate text message.
The proposed funding for the COVID-19 vaccination program, lodged under the proposed budget of the Department of Health (DOH), amounts to at least P2.5 billion.
Some senators have earlier called for an increased budget for the vaccines even before this confirmation from Sotto.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, for instance, pressed for at least P100 billion in funding for the purchase of coronavirus vaccines next year.
He said the country would need that amount at the minimum to ensure that a sufficient proportion of the country’s 105 million people would be vaccinated against the virus. He likewise noted logistical costs in distributing and administering the vaccines.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, earlier said that the budget earmarked for the purchase of the vaccines is “grossly insufficient,” noting that the vaccination drive would also require huge logistical and human resource requirements.
For his part, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the P2.5 billion will only cover the vaccination of 3.9 million Filipinos. He said the DOH would need at least P10 billion for the vaccines.
The House of Representatives was also earlier able to source P5.5 billion more to augment the P2.5-billion budget for the inoculation drive.
According to DOH, the government wants to vaccinate 50 to 60 percent of the country’s population to achieve herd community against COVID-19. Herd immunity is a concept in vaccination wherein a virus can no longer spread easily because enough people are immune to it.
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