Press Release
November 8, 2020

Drilon doubts gov't readiness to administer Covid-19 vaccines
The minority leader says that aside from funding woes, critical aspects such as logistics and human resource remain to be addressed in 2021 nat'l budget

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon expressed serious concerns about the country's preparedness to conduct mass vaccinations once the coronavirus vaccines become available, citing funding woes and the lack of a clear distribution plan.

Drilon said he supports the policy direction laid out by newly-appointed vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., who earlier said the government intends to purchase an initial batch of 24 million Covid-19 vaccines once they become available next year.

However, for Drilon, the proposed P4.5 trillion national budget for 2021 "does not support that vision" as it only earmarks a measly P2.4 billion for Covid-19 vaccines procurement.

"We support the intention. There is a disconnect, however, between the government's pronounced policy and the 2021 national budget. The National Expenditures Program for 2021 has not allocated sufficient funding for distributing and administering Covid-19 vaccines," Drilon said in a statement Sunday.

"Obviously, the P2.4 billion earmarked for next year to purchase Covid-19 vaccines is grossly insufficient. The DOH said so that we are short of P10 billion but I believe it is way beyond that," he added, citing huge logistical and human resource requirements.

"That is why we will be pushing for more budget for the procurement and administration of potential coronavirus vaccines. Congress has to appropriate money to buy the vaccine and the best time to do it is now while we are deliberating on the spending outlay," Drilon stressed.

The minority leader reiterated his serious concern over the government's lack of a coronavirus vaccine distribution plan to ensure immediate access to, and efficient and equitable transportation, storage and distribution of, eventual Covid-19 vaccines.

Drilon said the government should lay the groundwork for distribution as soon as possible, saying that the huge task does not start and end in buying the vaccine.

"Buying the vaccine is not the end-all-be-all solution. It will require substantial funding and complex logistics. Who will administer the vaccines? Should we hire additional staff? Is the current DOH workforce enough to administer it to 20 million Filipinos? Where do we plan to store the vaccines?" Drilon said.

"The lack of clarity about these very critical matters will spell trouble next year," he said.

Drilon had earlier prodded the government to actively participate in bilateral and multilateral efforts to secure immediate access to vaccines.

He cited the COVAX facility, a financing mechanism that helps low- and middle-income countries get access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines.

"Clearly, the budget is not enough. I am dismay at the apparent business-as-usual approach to this. It is reflected both in the budget and the apparent lack of a comprehensive coronavirus vaccine distribution plan," Drilon said.

"We will tackle the 2021 national budget on the floor in the coming weeks and it is the best opportunity to debate on this issue. We must remember that public financing ensures widespread vaccination. We cannot leave it to the private sector," he stressed.

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