PHL allocates P45B for booster shots

THE Philippine government is setting aside P45.37 billion for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) booster shots under the proposed 2022 national budget, the Palace said on Thursday.

This as the country’s vaccine experts have yet to recommend booster shots for fully vaccinated individuals, and as the vaccine rollout continues at a sluggish pace due to lack of adequate supplies.

“In the 2022 budget, we have a budget entry for booster shots for all Filipinos… The amount of funding for booster shots is P45 billion,” Presidential Spokesperson Herminio “Harry” L. Roque, Jr. said in a televised briefing.

Funds for the procurement of booster shots will be included in the proposed P5.024-trillion national budget for 2022, which will be submitted to Congress on Monday.

However, the budget for the booster shots would only be funded if the government would be able to raise enough money for it, Mr. Roque said.

Mr. Roque did not give details on how many vaccine doses or which brands will be used as boosters.

The Philippines has approved the emergency use of eight COVID-19 vaccines, including those by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Sputnik, and Sinovac.

Earlier in the day, Health Undersecretary Myrna C. Cabotaje said Health authorities have yet to give a “firm recommendation” on whether fully vaccinated individuals should receive booster shots.

They are also still studying what would constitute a top-up shot, she told a virtual news briefing.

The United States earlier said it would give booster shots to its adult citizens eight months after they have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization has said current data does not indicate that booster shots are needed, noting that vulnerable people worldwide should be fully vaccinated first before developed countries administer extra doses for those already fully inoculated against COVID-19.

As of Thursday, 12.88 million or 11.81% of the Philippine population have been fully vaccinated.

The Health department on Thursday also reported 14,895 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the active cases to 111,720.

PANDEMIC RESPONSE

At the same briefing, Mr. Roque said around P240 billion will be allocated for country’s pandemic response under the 2022 national budget.

Of this amount, P99.2 billion will be used to fund the Department of Education’s blended learning programs, he said.

The Department of Health will receive P93.79 billion for its health facilities, programs against communicable diseases, procurement of health supplies, emergency hiring of health personnel, among others, he added.

The Department of Labor and Employment would receive P33.63 billion for its programs for distressed workers, while the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration would receive P11.29 billion for the repatriation and reintegration of migrant Filipino workers, Mr. Roque said.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development will be given a P11.52-billion budget, while Trade department will receive P1.20 billion for its livelihood programs.

The Palace official said P1.28 billion will be earmarked for the establishment of the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines and pandemic-related initiatives of the Department of Science and Technology.

The University of the Philippines will get P140 million for its genomic information and resource hub, he added.

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