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‘P25 billion additional vaccine budget too much’

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
âP25 billion additional vaccine budget too muchâ
A health worker prepares an injection of the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine on February 7, 2021 at the Mignot Hospital in Le Chesnay near Paris.
AFP / Alain Jocard

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate may reconvene its committee of the whole to look into the Duterte administration’s plan to raise another P25 billion to purchase COVID-19 vaccines, as senators called for transparency on the government’s jab procurement transactions.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he was considering the request of Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who asked that the special panel be reconvened to look into the administration’s vaccine procurement.

The letter was also signed by Senate President pro tempore Ralph Recto, Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Nancy Binay, Leila de Lima and Risa Hontiveros.

Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado earlier said the government needs an additional P25 billion on top of the P82.5 billion allocated for vaccine procurement under the Bayanihan to Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2.

“Based on the arithmetic I did, the P107.5 billion is way too much for buying the vaccines needed to achieve herd immunity – unless they know something we don’t. But the bottom line is, it is not their money, it’s the public’s. I can only hope the excess amount will not go to corruption,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.

A4 vaccination

Employees who are working from home are economic frontliners included in the A4 priority group, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the work-from-home set-up is just a temporary arrangement and employees who are doing their tasks remotely usually report to their offices during normal times.

“I think, although this is subject to verification, they are included (in the A4). We included them so that the work arrangements of people working in the private and public sectors will become normal,” he added.

Sen. Joel Villanueva urged the government to monitor the vaccine roll-out for the A4 group, saying that it is the key to reviving the economy. According to Villanueva, there are an estimated 35.5 million essential frontline workers, but only 4,559 A4 individuals have been fully vaccinated as of June 6.

For Sen. Bong Go, there is a need to enhance coordination across all levels of government, the private sector and the public to safely deliver the vaccines to segments of the population in hard to reach areas.

“When the vaccine arrives, deploy and inject it immediately. We are pursuing this so that we can achieve herd immunity… We must ensure that vaccines are distributed quickly and systematically, especially since more people can be vaccinated, ” explained Go.

National Task Force against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. called all economic frontliners heroes, hailing their “dedication and courage amid the health crisis.”

Vaccine passport

Following the lead of other countries, the Philippines is working on the issuance of vaccine passports, the Palace confirmed yesterday.

“As I said, we will be having a uniform passport which can be recognized by everyone. The (vaccine) passport will enable us to really return to normal because you will be vaccinated, although you won’t get 100 percent assurance that you won’t be infected, there will surely be confidence,” Roque said.

Vaccine passports has gained use around the world, with the European Union reportedly adopting them in July ahead of lifting travel restrictions within the bloc.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Alliance of Patient Organizations (PAPO) launched the “Bakuna, Now Na” campaign to encourage more Filipinos to get inoculated and decrease vaccine hesitancy.

“We urge all Filipinos, including patients and their families, to get vaccinated against CoVID-19 to protect ourselves and others from this potentially life-threatening illness,” PAPO president Ma. Fatima Lorenzo said. – Alexis Romero, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jose Rodel Clapano, Christina Mendez, Sheila Crisostomo

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