Jabs for minors need P25B outlay

An allocation of P25 billion to cover the inoculation of children aged 12 years old and above might be needed by the government, Budget Secretary Carlos Dominquez said Tuesday.

PHYSICALLY PRESENT. Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año take their oaths during a hybrid inquiry of the Committee of the Whole into the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program on June 15. Senate PRIB
He also told the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing that pending confirmation by the country's health authorities, they were preparing for the purchase of booster shots of one dose for roughly 85 million adults and teenagers.

"This could cost roughly P60 billion. The proposal is to include such supplemental amounts in the 2022 budget," he told the Senate hearing.

He also disclosed that the country's total debt as a share of GDP was expected to rise to 58.7 percent in 2021. This figure was 54.6 percent in 2020 and a historic low of 39.6 percent in 2019.

Despite the increase, he noted the administration's “prudent debt management” gave the country the fiscal headroom to deal with the pandemic.

Because of this, he said the anticipated temporary rise in debt remained within the prescribed bounds of fiscal viability.

At the same time, Dominguez said this year the country's budget gap was expected to widen to P1.86 trillion, about 36 percent higher than last year. This is about 9.3 percent of the country's GDP.

He said the larger budget deficit would require P3.1 trillion in borrowings in 2021, roughly the same level as last year. These borrowings will be sourced mainly from the local markets at around 75 percent and 25 percent from abroad.

He stressed that financing the country's vaccine purchases was a specific subset of the country's overall fiscal management.

He said the total budget for the procurement of vaccines amounted to P88.6 billion. This should be enough to procure about 148 million doses and inoculate at least 70 million Filipinos or 100 percent of our adult population, he said.

Of the 88.6-billion peso funding, P2.5 billion forms part of the budget of the Department of Health under the 2021 General Appropriations Act.

Meanwhile, the P10 billion are funds under the Bayanihan 2 law allocated for the COVID-19 vaccination program.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 
The remaining P3.26 billion comes from other sources in the 2021 National Budget and the Bayanihan 2.

Around P57.3 billion are sourced through concessional loans from the country's multilateral partners, such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Up to 12.7 billion pesos will come from other financing sources as may be necessary while the 2.8 billion pesos, as mentioned, are from the contingency funds.

MECQ areas

Areas under modified enhanced community quarantine, the second toughest lockdown level, will now be prioritized in the country's COVID-19 vaccination drive, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles saidTuesday. (See full story online at

This, after President Rodrigo Duterte authorized the deployment of more anti-coronavirus jabs to areas with increasing infections, he said. Nograles is also co-chairman of the government's pandemic task force.

The Visayas and Mindanao have been "showing faster increase" in the number of new COVID-19 cases, the Department of Health earlier said.

As of June 8, Mindanao logged 13,425 active COVID-19 cases, while Visayas recorded 9,725 new coronavirus patients, according to data from the DOH.

Japan to donate

The Japanese government will donate a still unknown number of doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to the Philippines to help the government curb the spread of COVID-19 disease, Finance Secretary Dominguez said.

In his presentation during the Senate Hearing on COVID-19 Vaccination Program, Dominguez confirmed that Japan Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced Tuesday the donation of Japan-made AstraZenecavaccines to some countries, including the Philippines.

 "We have not yet been officially informed of the number of doses that are going to be donated by Japan," Dominguez told the senators.

A report from Nikkei Asia around noon of Tuesday said that Japan would donate one million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines to Vietnam on Wednesday, citing a statement from Motegi.

"Tokyo is also considering donating vaccines to Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia in July," the report said.

Herd immunity

The government has more than enough funds to achieve herd immunity at least for this year and should focus more on ensuring the efficient rollout of COVID vaccines, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Tuesday.

Lacson cited figures from Finance Secretary Dominguez indicating the government had P5 billion more than needed for herd immunity for 2021.

"At P446 per dose including logistical costs, we will need P52.3 billion. We have already secured P57.3 billion through borrowings, so we have a surplus of P5 billion for herd immunity," Lacson said during the Senate Committee of the Whole's hearing on the national COVID-19 vaccination program.

For his part, Senate President Vicente Sotto III agreed: "The bottom line is the rollout."

Lacson said that to achieve herd immunity, the government would need P52.343 billion to procure 117,361,601 target doses at P446 per dose, including logistical costs.

COVID vaccines

Vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the Philippines had breached 7 million jabs administered as of June 14, and around 6.4 million COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers were expected to arrive in the Philippines before June ends.

Speaking during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on the vaccination program, Galvez said there were 980,471 medical frontliners, 486,945 senior citizens, 429,301 persons with comorbidities, and 7,067 essential workers who were fully vaccinated.

He said a total 1,903,784 doses COVID-19 doses were used for their inoculation. Galvez's presentation showed that four million COVID-19 vaccines from

Beijing-based pharmaceutical firm Sinovac would arrive in the country within the month of June.

The delivery of the 2.5 million jabs is set on the following dates: June 17 - 1.5 million doses and June 24 - 1 million.

Vaccination hesitancy

Senator Imee Marcos called on the government for clearer strategies that would increase vaccine acceptance and immunity against COVID-19 to speed up the country’s economic recovery.

“We have the money for vaccines. But vaccination hesitancy remains a challenge and may lead to a greater wastage of vaccines and government funds than the incidence of poor cold storage. Without herd immunity, economic recovery will be choppy,” Marcos said.

To solve this, she said the government needed to determine where it should conduct more aggressive information campaigns which are tailored to the language, unique customs and belief systems of the local government unit concerned.

For instance, she said an emphasis that vaccines were halal might be needed in the BARMM, or that a certain vaccine had been administered in Muslim countries.

The Senate economic affairs committee chairman said more Filipinos still needed to be convinced to take the jab, citing that the last national survey showed little improvement in the vaccination hesitancy rate of close to 50 percent.

Eleazar gets jab

Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar on Tuesday took the first COVID-19 vaccine for the police force's A4 priority group.

In a ceremony in Camp Crame, Eleazar received his first dose of China's Sinovac vaccine administered by Health Assistant Secretary Maria Francia Laxamana.

Other members of the PNP Command Group who also received the jabs were deputy chief for administration, Lt. Gen. Joselito Veracruz, and deputy chief for operations, Lt. Gen. Israel Ephraim Dickson.

Based on the rules, A1 (medical front-liners) should be the first to be vaccinated, followed by A2 (senior citizens) and A3 (persons with comorbidities). A4 category includes essential front-liners and indigent Filipinos.

Eleazar said this would also help boost vaccine confidence among police personnel which is now at 92.76 percent.

Around 500 doses were allotted to the PNP for Tuesday's A4 vaccination rollout.

Jail personnel get vax

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology also rolled out vaccination for its personnel belonging to the A4 priority sector.

Some 313 doses of Sinovac vaccines were delivered from the National Vaccination Operations Center to the BJMP National Headquarters in Quezon City for Tuesday’s vaccination activity.

BJMP Chief Director Allan Iral said they supported the government's call to further intensify COVID-19 vaccination, especially to the members of the uniformed service who are also serving as front-liners.

Dr. Elmer Punzalan, Field Implementation and Coordination Team leader of the Department of Health reiterated the importance of having the vaccine and urged everyone to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, BJMP spokesman, Chief Insp. Xavier Solda said 1,631 of the persons deprived of liberty were already vaccinated through the efforts of their respective local government units.

Vaccines to the south

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines on Tuesday sent more than 150,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to five cities in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.

PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said Flight PR-2141 delivered 19,600 doses of China-made Sinovac vaccine to Iloilo while Flight PR-2981 shipped 21,000 doses of the same brand to Tacloban.

In Cagayan de Oro, 35, 100 doses of Pfizer and 21,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines were transported by PAL flight PR-2519.

PAL flight PR-1809 also shipped 44,800 doses of Sinovac vaccine to Davao while flight PR-2557 flew to Dipolog and delivered 10,000 doses of the same vaccine brand.

"This is the flag carrier doing its part in the cold-chain vaccine distribution. Proud to be a partner of the government in the fight versus COVID-19," said Villaluna.

Topics: Carlos Dominquez , Vaccine , Minors , Philippine Airlines , Asian Development Bank , World Bank
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