Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday expressed “serious concerns” about the country’s preparedness to conduct mass vaccinations once the coronavirus vaccines became available, citing “funding woes and the lack of a clear distribution plan.”
While the senator said he supports the policy direction laid out by newly-appointed vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., who earlier said the government intends to purchase an initial batch of 24 million Covid-19 vaccines, he said the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021 “does not support that vision” as it only earmarks a measly P2.4 billion for Covid-19 vaccines procurement.
The House added P5.5 billion to the Covid-19 vaccine fund, bringing the total to P8 billion.
But Drilon said it was not enough.
“Obviously, the P2.4 billion earmarked for next year to purchase Covid-19 vaccines is grossly insufficient. The DOH said so that we are short of P10 billion but I believe it is way beyond that,” he added, citing huge logistical and human resource requirements.
“That is why we will be pushing for more budget for the procurement and administration of potential coronavirus vaccines. Congress has to appropriate money to buy the vaccine and the best time to do it is now while we are deliberating on the spending outlay,” Drilon said.
The minority leader reiterated his serious concern over the government’s lack of a coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to ensure immediate access to, and efficient and equitable transportation, storage and distribution of, eventual Covid-19 vaccines.
Drilon said the government should lay the groundwork for distribution as soon as possible, saying that the huge task does not start and end in buying the vaccine.
“Buying the vaccine is not the end-all-be-all solution. It will require substantial funding and complex logistics. Who will administer the vaccines? Should we hire additional staff?” he said.
“Is the current DOH workforce enough to administer it to 20 million Filipinos? Where do we plan to store the vaccines?” Drilon said.
“The lack of clarity about these very critical matters will spell trouble next year,” he said.