DOH: Funds available to buy Covid-19 vaccine

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The Department of Health (DOH) has assured it has funds to purchase the Covid-19 vaccine once available.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a public briefing over PTV4, said they also have assurance from the House of Representatives for additional funds in case it is needed.

“We already have an approved P2.5 billion under the general appropriations bill and the legislators have committed they will add some more budget for the vaccine if needed,” Vergeire said.

She said their earlier initial estimate was at P3 billion when other information regarding the other Covid-19 vaccines were not yet available. “We estimated that we are going to procure about 22 million doses times two for 22 million population,” she shared.

She added that part of the P3 billion is the P1.3 billion to allocated for the cold storage for the vaccines. “Now that information regarding other Covid-19 vaccines being developed by other manufacturers to which the country may negotiate, are available, Vergeire said they are updating their estimate.

The DOH official also assured they will inform the public on the revised estimates. She clarified that clinical trials that will be done in the country will not have any effect on the DOH procurement plan.

Vergerie said DOH is currently looking at two options —  the vaccines that will have clinical trials in the country, and the vaccines that may be procured but will not be conducting their clinical trial here.

She said the country is open for manufacturers planning to conduct their clinical trials here. “We are open to that and it’s not going to affect our procurement plan: it will be part of that plan where after the clinical trial and the result is good then we may include that among the list of vaccines we may procure,” Vergeire explained

She added that clinical trials are to check if a new technology or in this case, a new vaccine, is safe and efficacious, and in case the Covid-19 vaccine becomes available, health care workers will be prioritized, to be followed by senior citizens and the indigents.

The prioritization she said is based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendations. She said DOH does not want to refer to the flattening of the curve anymore and what they can say is that the number of Covid-19 cases in the country is on a downward trend based on the number of cases being reported daily.

She noted that the critical care utilization facilities for Covid-19 patients in the country have improved and that there are more available facilities now, even as some provinces have higher number of reported cases.

She also assured the DOH is monitoring these areas and reminded the public not to be complacent despite the numbers scaling down.

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