DOH urged to cover funding for COVID vaccine
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday said the chamber is ready to appropriate funds for the vaccine under the national budget for next year, adding that he prefers to have the funds on hand in case a vaccine is developed and made available in the market.
AFP/Douglas Magno
DOH urged to cover funding for COVID vaccine
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - July 10, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has given assurance of a budget allocation for potential vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano yesterday said the chamber is ready to appropriate funds for the vaccine under the national budget for next year, adding that he prefers to have the funds on hand in case a vaccine is developed and made available in the market.

“What if there is a vaccine and they won’t supply unless you pay at once? So the funds should already be available in the budget,” he stressed.

The chamber also called on the Department of Health (DOH) to include it in the 2021 budget that it would propose as the executive branch is preparing the National Expenditure Program to be submitted to Congress before the budget season in August.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez explained that the DOH – not Congress or any other agency – has the expertise to come up with estimates based on its institutional knowledge on the cost of previous vaccines and access to manufacturers.

“I am suggesting that the DOH already incorporate in its budget proposal its estimated funding requirement for the doses the country needs to protect our people from coronavirus,” he said in a statement. “We will have to rely on them, especially considering that the COVID-19 vaccine is yet to be found.”

Rodriguez explained that by this time of the year, the administration has put together the proposed national budget for next year and is preparing to submit it to Congress, which is convening for its second regular session on July 27.

He said the administration has a constitutional deadline of one month from July 27 to submit to Congress its proposed budget for 2021, noting that budget and finance officials have announced the budget ceiling at P4.3 trillion, about P200 billion more than this year’s P4.1 trillion.

“However, there’s still time for the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management to make adjustments to accommodate appropriations for COVID-19 vaccines. If the DOH needs more time after the budget proposal is submitted, they should tell us. We can wait for their estimates and we can introduce the needed adjustments while the House is considering the spending measure,” Rodriguez pointed out.

Hammer and dance

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr., after being ridiculed for his remark about “dancing” along with the pandemic, explained yesterday that his statement was not literal and that he was referring to a theory on the virus that went viral online.

Roque said he was alluding to the hammer and dance theory, which was proposed by French-Spanish writer and engineer Tomas Pueyo.

“Many were asking why I mentioned dancing along COVID-19. That’s not literal, come on. Many did not get what I was saying. I became the subject of memes and my Tiktok videos were revived,” he said at a press briefing. “We have what is now called the hammer and dance theory on how we are fighting COVID.”

Roque said hammer refers to the government’s decision to impose a lockdown to reduce the spread of the virus as well as the recruitment of health personnel to treat those who were infected by the virus.

The dance, he added, refers to the reopening of the economy once the threat of the disease is reduced. To do this, there should be proper testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation.

“We will also have public education on hygiene and social distancing. We will continue to ban gatherings although in MGCQ (modified general community quarantine) areas, up to 50 percent capacity (of the venues) may be filled up,” Roque pointed out, referring to the most lenient quarantine scenario. ?In his online article “Coronavirus: The Hammer And The Dance,” Pueyo said governments should implement strict measures to contain the virus until a vaccine is developed.

These measures like contact tracing and quarantine of infected persons should continue even if countries ease lockdowns, he added.

?“As the economy reopens... the responsibility will go to LGUs (local government units). They will impose the local lockdown. The private sector will handle information drive, strict enforcement and testing of their employees. The people should wear masks and observe social distancing,” Roque said.

Last month, Roque drew flak when he said that the Philippines had “won” because the number of COVID-19 cases in the country did not reach 40,000 by the end of June as predicted by University of the Philippines experts. He later clarified that UP is not the enemy and he was just telling the public that they could do something to contain the virus.

The Philippines now has more than 51,000 COVID-19 cases. At the same briefing, Roque said the government has allocated P4.99 million for the clinical studies on convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19.

The Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development and the UP-Philippine General Hospital are undertaking a project which aims to evaluate the efficacy and safety of convalescent plasma transfusion as adjunct therapy to prevent disease progression among patients.

Sen. Richard Gordon called on members of the media to provide the public not only with accurate updates on the pandemic but also to inform people on what should be done to ensure victory over the coronavirus, citing the important role of the Fourth Estate in nation-building. Delon Porcalla, Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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