DOH needs P12.9B to purchase COVID-19 vaccines

The Department of Health (DOH) said on Friday, September 18, that it needs P12.9 billion to purchase coronavirus vaccines for some 20 million poorest Filipinos.

During the House deliberations on the DOH's 2021 proposed budget, Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said that the agency has set aside only P2.5 billion for vaccines intended for high-risk populations such as barangay frontliners, medical frontliners, and indigent senior citizens.

Where will the DOH source the remaining amount?

Cabotaje said that the government will borrow from the LandBank of the Philippines.

"We need P12.9 billion, but we only allocated P2.5 billion for now because we can get the remaining budget requirement through a loan from the LandBank," Cabotaje said in a mix of English and Filipino.

According to Cabotaje, the government will pay the LandBank from the DOH budget in the coming years.

"Ang mechanism po uutang tayo sa LandBank, mag-pu-purchase po ang PITC-Pharmaceutical (now Philippine Pharma Procurement Inc) under DTI (Department of Trade and Industry)... So 'yan po ang ating proposal for the vaccine procurement," she added.

(The mechanism is we will borrow from LandBank, the PITC Pharmaceutical under the DTI will purchase the vaccines... This will be our proposal for the vaccine procurement.)

The DOH earlier said that large-scale clinical trials under the World Health Organization’s solidarity trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine may start by the end of October. (READ: WHO eyes start of PH vaccine trials by end-October)

WHO solidarity trials will take place alongside independent trials for other vaccines being eyed by the Philippines’ vaccine expert panel headed by the Department of Science and Technology. 

These include 3 vaccines being developed by China (including front-runners Sinopharm and Sinovac), as well as two from Taiwan. State scientists are also reviewing documents on Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

The Russian vaccine has been widely criticized after President Vladimir Putin approved it prior to extensive clinical trials to prove that it is safe and effective.

As the country battles the coronavirus pandemic, the DOH is seeking a bigger budget of P203.74 billion in 2021. This is 27% higher than its 2020 budget. –

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.