The Philippines may need an estimated P25 billion to cover the COVID-19 vaccination of children aged 12 years old and above, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told the Senate on Tuesday, June 15.
Dominguez said this during his presentation at a Senate hearing on the government’s mass vaccination campaign, where lawmakers sought updates on the status of the program’s P88.6-billion budget.
“There is second horizon we need to look at. We might need an allocation of about P25 billion to cover the inoculation of children aged 12 years old and above,” Dominguez said.
Responding to the questions of Senator Panfilo Lacson, the finance chief said that the amount being eyed is based on the use of the Pfizer’vaccine, as it is the only vaccine, so far, being administered on children aged 12 and above. He said this figure may change if health authorities allow the use of another vaccine for the age group.
“This is a developing situation,” Dominguez said.
During the hearing, Dominguez said the Duterte government was expecting to receive about 149 million doses from seven different vaccine developers in 2021, which would be just enough to cover the country’s adult population of 70 million Filipinos. Contracts with vaccine manufacturers for the total number of doses was pegged at about P38.95 billion.
The allocation of vaccines for 2021, however, does not take into account children who have since become eligible to receive the vaccine in recent months.
Large Phase 3 trials mounted by drug firms like Pfizer have found the vaccine to be safe and effective in younger populations, leading the company to apply for emergency use of its vaccine among kids in different countries, including the Philippines. The vaccine’s EUA in the Philippines has since been amended to allow its use on adolescents aged 12 to 15, amending the previous emergency use authorization (EUA) that allowed the use of the vaccine for those aged 16 and above.
While the development had been welcomed by experts, the Philippine health officials earlier said that the country’s vaccination strategy to prioritize the vulnerable population remains. Health officials also said that the “general consensus” of vaccine experts was “to revisit pediatric and adolescent vaccination once our vaccine supply has stabilized.”
Dominguez said the P25 billion would be enough to cover Filipinos aged 12 years old and up, estimated to number some 15 million. Speaking to President Rodrigo Duterte in a televised address on Monday night, June 14, the finance secretary said “we have enough reserves to cover that amount of money” should the vaccination of children become possible.
“The money is there and we will certainly be able to vaccinate the entire adult population plus the teenagers,” he told Duterte.
Dominguez also told lawmakers that the P25 billion is an estimate that may later on be updated, depending on the type of vaccine to be purchased.
Aside from vaccinating children, Dominguez said another P60 billion would roughly be needed for the purchase of one-dose booster shots for 85 million Filipinos. He proposed the amount to be included in the 2022 budget.
Under the Department of Science and Technology, scientists and medical experts in the Philippines are planning to study the use of COVID-19 vaccine boosters, which could strengthen an individual’s immune response to the virus. – Rappler.com