The Department of Finance (DOF) has assured the public that funds have been sufficiently provisioned to procure enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines from various sources in line with its target to inoculate at least 50 million Filipinos.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the DOF has “in place” P75 billion of the P82.5 billion budget required to provide vaccines to around 55 percent of the population.
Of the P82.5 billion, the amount of P2.5 billion forms part of the budget of the Department of Health (DOH) under the 2021 General Appropriations Act (GAA), while P10 billion will come from the funds allocated for the COVID-19 vaccination program under Republic Act (RA) No. 11494 or the Bayanihan To Recover As One Act (Bayanihan 2), Dominguez said.
The remaining P70 billion will be sourced from loans provided by multilateral lenders, the Philippines’ bilateral partners and/or the domestic market, he added.
The DOF is processing around P62.5 billion (approximately US$1.3 billion) through loans with multilateral banks to procure COVID-19 vaccines for adult Filipinos, Dominguez said.
These multilateral institutions include the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB) and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), he said.
According to Dominguez, the government is targeting to inoculate between 50 to 70 million adult Filipinos AGED 19 years old and above.
“We have 110 million Filipinos. Of the 110 million, around 40 million are AGED 18 AND BELOW, and it is not recommended that teenagers and below get the vaccine. So, you knock off 40 million out of 110 million. That leaves you 70 million Filipinos potentially to vaccinate,” he said during the open forum following his speech at the 72nd inaugural meeting of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) held online on Tuesday.
The COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use so far are ONLY ALLOWED FOR ADULTS as there are no clinical trials yet involving children.
Dominguez said initial computations place the conservative cost per person to be vaccinated at P1,300, which already includes the required doses, syringe, storage, equipment, information campaign, monitoring and other support services.
At P1,300 per person, the government would be able to inoculate roughly 57 to 60 million Filipinos out of the 70 million that need to be vaccinated, Dominguez said.
“Now, that leaves you 13 million people. We expect the 13 million to be covered by the LGUs (local government units), the private sector, and of course, there are the recusants—the guys who don’t believe in vaccination,” he said during the virtual open forum.
“So, basically, we are going to be covered and I think we will be able easily now, with the resources that we have raised, to vaccinate 60 million Filipinos,” he said.
During Monday’s hearing of the Senate committee of the whole, Finance Undersecretary Mark Dennis Joven of the DOF International Finance Group (IFG) said the DOF has begun the process of negotiating with the WB and ADB at least US$800 million (about P39 billion) in funds for the COVID-19 vaccination program through a project loan, with the DOH as implementing agency.
The financing support from the ADB and the WB carries low interest rates, with an average maturity period of at least 1o years, Joven said.
Joven heads a task group on procurement and financing comprising representatives from the DOF, DOH and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that reports directly to National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.
He explained to senators that the DOF only handles the financing aspect of the procurement, which involves negotiating with multilateral institutions and bilateral partners to secure funds for the COVID-19 vaccination program.
The supply aspect, meanwhile, which involves the selection of vaccine brands and the negotiations with the various suppliers for the procurement and supply of the drugs are handled by Galvez and the DOH, Joven added.
“The budget is cut in two parts. It’s P70 billion plus P12.5 billion. The P70 billion along with the COVAX contribution would be sufficient to fund around 140 million doses of vaccines,” said Joven during the Jan. 11 hearing presided by Senate President Vicente Sotto III to inquire into the progress of the government’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
Joven was referring to the COVAX Facility, a global initiative that brought together governments and vaccine manufacturers, including 64 high-income economies, to ensure the fair and equitable access of all participating countries to COVID-19 vaccines.
The Philippines is part of the COVAX facility, which guarantees it access to vaccine doses for at least 20 percent of its population.
The remaining P12.5 billion of the P82.5 billion COVID-19 vaccine budget will be spent on ancillary requirements such as materials, rollout, storage, distribution and other logistical and support services, Joven said.
He said early computations done by the DOF involves a phased rollout of the vaccine doses.
However, a faster rollout period to cover more segments of the population will require additional funds, he said.
“It depends on how fast the rollout is. A faster rollout would necessitate more funds. Of course, we would appreciate it if Congress can consider increasing the budget so far as this rollout or ancillary services is considered,” Joven said during the hearing.