Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday expressed “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.
“It worries us that we have not heard of any plan that the government has undertaken to ensure that the country will get immediate access to Covid-19 vaccines,” Drilon said in a statement.
“A paltry budget of P2.5 billion for the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines for next year does not give us comfort either,” he lamented.
Drilon said the meager allocation for the purchase of vaccines under the National Expenditures Program (NEP) indicates poor planning by the Department of Health (DOH).
“I hope the government understands that this Covid-19 vaccine to be developed is a life saver. Our survival as a nation largely depends on our ability to immediately provide vaccines to our people,” Drilon said.
“Therefore, I urge the government to take a more proactive approach in dealing with this critical issue. There are means and channels they can explore to secure that our country will not be left out when it comes to the administration of vaccines that are expected to be made available next year,” Drilon said.
“We would like to see a comprehensive coronavirus vaccine distribution plan. The Philippines can participate in bilateral and multilateral efforts to secure immediate access to vaccines,” he stressed.
With only P2.5 billion allocation for vaccine procurement for 2021, however, “the future looks dim insofar as Covid-19 vaccine is concerned.”
The amount will not even be able to cover 20 million Filipinos. The President, in various speeches, announced the free distribution of vaccines to at least 20 million Filipinos.
Even the DOH itself admitted the budget for vaccine procurement is short of P10 billion.
Drilon said logistical requirements, including storage facilities, will require a huge budget.
“Clearly, the budget is not enough. I am dismayed at the apparent business-as-usual approach to this. It is reflected both in the budget and the apparent lack of a comprehensive coronavirus vaccine distribution plan,” Drilon said.
“We will tackle the 2021 national budget on the floor in the coming weeks and it is the best opportunity to debate on this issue. We must remember that public financing ensures widespread vaccination. We cannot leave it to the private sector,” he added.