The government will borrow P73.2 billion to buy COVID-19 vaccines for 60 million Filipinos, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said Tuesday.
Dominguez said he told President Rodrigo Duterte in their weekly meeting Monday night that the fund can come from several sources — P40 billion from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank, P20 billion from local banks and government corporations, and P13.2 billion from bilateral sources.
“The government could tap P40 billion in low-cost, long-term loans from multilateral agencies like the World Bank and the ADB, while [domestically]...the government can get P20 billion from the Land Bank of the Philippines, Development Bank of the Philippines, and other government-owned and -controlled corporations,” Dominguez said.
The government can also negotiate with bilateral sources such as the United States and United Kingdom for funding to buy the vaccines, he added.
“The total amount is around P73.2 billion in financing. It’s pretty much almost fixed. Most of it is already fixed. The P13.2 billion is not yet completely negotiated,” he said in a report to the President.
Dominguez said the estimated cost of a vaccine dose is $25, or P1,200, per person. The loans mentioned, he said, would be enough to finance the vaccination of 60 million people.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said a country may reach “herd immunity” when 60 to 70 percent of the population is vaccinated, citing World Health Organization guidance.
“If we are able to reach that we’re going to pretty much arrest the spread of this. COVID-19 will be controlled. We will have herd immunity, that’s our goal around 60 percent to 70 percent,” he added.
Dominguez said the government has the funds for the vaccine purchase.
Duterte said the government will give priority to poor families, who received social amelioration program benefits from the government during the community quarantine.
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.
The rich who can afford the vaccine and drug pushers “who destroy the country” would not qualify for free vaccination, the President said.
Duterte said he will task the military to distribute the government-acquired COVID-19 vaccines.
Meanwhile, the private sector will buy as many as 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which will be given to government employees, frontline health workers and other essential services workers as designated by Department of Health,” said Christian Razon Gonzalez, executive vice president of the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI).
Gonzalez said, “50 percent of this vaccine will be purely for the use of DOH under what is called equitable distribution to be determined by the government. The other 50 percent will be for the private entity to determine.”
“Naturally, one of the targets that we will have, of course, will be our own employees. But in the case of ICTSI, we strongly believe that some of the key essential services’ members that really made the biggest impact especially at the beginning of the pandemic were the employees of the Philippine Ports Authority, Bureau of Customs and other essential frontline port and logistics workers,” he said.
He said the vaccine procurement initiative involved the UK and Philippine governments and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Under this arrangement, the private sector would cover the costs, he said.
He added that AstraZeneca was offering 3 million to 5 million doses initially to the Philippines.
In other developments:
• An infectious disease expert, Dr. Edsel Salvana, said frontline workers would be first in line to receive COVID-19 vaccines once they are available. Speaking on ANC, Salvana said the government must also include law enforcers, grocery store workers and public utility drivers, among others who provide critical services and help preserve the economy, in the vaccine rollout.
• The DOH on Monday said that they are unable to come up with a list of COVID-19 vaccine recipients because of a lack of the final list of vaccines for procurement. “Until we can have a final list of the vaccines that we are going to, we cannot give a list of the people who will be vaccinated,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a virtual briefing.