Gov’t eyes P73-billion coronavirus vaccine fund

The Philippines is nearing a deal with AstraZeneca to purchase at least 20 million vaccine doses. — REUTERS/DADO RUVIC/FILE PHOTO

THE government plans to borrow P73.2 billion to buy coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine for around 60 million Filipinos.

In a televised Cabinet meeting on Monday evening, Finance Secretary Carlo G. Dominguez III said it will source P40 billion from multilateral agencies; P20 billion from domestic government financial institutions; and P13.2 billion from bilateral negotiations from countries where vaccines will come from such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

“So the total is about P73.2-billion financing — that is pretty much almost fixed. Most of it is already fixed. P13.2 billion is not yet completely negotiated,” he said.

Mr. Dominguez said the government estimates the average cost of a complete vaccine dose is around P1,200 each.

Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said in the same meeting that 60% to 70% of the country’s total population would need to be vaccinated to reach “herd immunity,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The Philippines’ population is currently at 108 million.

The WHO website defines herd immunity as a concept “in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.”

In the same meeting, National Task Force Against the COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez, Jr. said they are in talks with several vaccine makers for advanced purchases.

Mr. Galvez said the government is looking to sign a deal with AstraZeneca for 20 million doses within the month. Talks are also ongoing with Sinovac Biotech Ltd., and Pfizer, Inc.

According to Reuters, AstraZeneca said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to distribute than other rival vaccines, may be as much as 90% effective.

Mr. Galvez said they may focus the COVID-19 vaccination drive in economic centers where infections are rising, namely Metro Manila, Davao, Cebu, and Bacolod.

The government has said poorest families will be prioritized in the vaccination program, as well as the police and military.

As of Tuesday, the Health department reported 1,118 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number to 421,722. — Gillian M. Cortez

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