Gov’t allots P45.3B for booster shots
The government is allotting P45.3 billion for COVID-19 booster shots under its 2022 budget, an official said, even as health authorities have yet to conclude if there was a need for a third dose.
“We have a budget entry for a booster shot for all Filipinos,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque told a regular news conference in Malacañang.
It was unclear how many doses of vaccine the budget could cover, but the Philippines has approved the emergency use of eight brands, including those of Pfizer and partner BioNTech and Moderna, which the United States would start offering as boosters next month.
The bulk of vaccines administered so far in the country, however, were the Chinese-made Sinovac jabs.
In recent weeks, Israel, France and Germany have decided to offer booster shots to older adults and people with weak immune systems.
The Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday said it was planning to include booster shots in drafting the agency’s budget for next year.
While boosters have not yet been approved in the country, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said the group tasked to study this should come up with results “in the next month or two.”
“We are considering it in the 2022 budget but there is no firm recommendation from the all-experts group yet,” Cabotaje, who also heads the National Vaccination Operations Center, said in an online briefing.
She said among the considerations of the all-experts panel was what kind or form the booster shot would take, if approved.
“Will it be a third dose of vaccine? Will we boost a vaccine with another vaccine [brand]? In the next month or two, the all-experts group will be able to give us a final recommendation,” she said.
Cabotaje said experts were studying boosters for specific populations, including health-care workers routinely exposed to the virus as well as those who might be immunocompromised.
“We don’t know yet if it’s going to be like the flu shot in the future, where you get a vaccine yearly,” she added.
However, Cabotaje did say that once approved, boosters would first be given to seniors and immunocompromised individuals.
Cabotaje did not say how much the DOH would need to buy booster shots for the country, but Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier said it could cost up to P55 billion.
While many Western countries have rolled out plans to give booster shots, the World Health Organization earlier pleaded with developed nations not to use these yet, until other poorer countries have benefited from the protection of COVID-19 vaccines. —With a report from Reuters
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