Covid-19 vaccine to remain free for 20-M indigents

Covid-19 vaccine to remain free for 20-M indigents

MANILA – Malacañang on Tuesday assured that 20 million “poorest of the poor” Filipinos will still receive free coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine even if the national government will have to purchase doses for a steep price.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night revealed that Russia and China will not be giving their vaccines away for free.

“’Yan po ang pangako ng ating Presidente (That’s the promise of our President), two doses of the vaccine to the 20 million poorest of the poor Filipinos, kasama na rin po ang mga (including) front-liners at yung merong mga sakit—(and those with) comorbidities,” he said in a virtual Palace briefing.

Citing Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Roque said the government can allocate PHP20 billion to buy the vaccine with the help of the Philippine International Trading Corp., Land Bank of the Philippines, and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

“We are scheduled to buy for 20 million people at two doses so that’s 40 million no. Forty million ang bibilhin natin (We will purchase 40 million vaccine doses),” Roque said.

At two doses per treatment, Dominguez said the government needs to acquire about 40 million vaccines, which is estimated to cost about USD10 per dosage.

However, Roque said he had no knowledge as to how many doses would come from a particular country.

“Di ko lang po alam kung ilan ang bibilhan sa Russia, kung ilan ang bibilhin sa iba’t-ibang parte ng daigdig. I guess that will depend later on po kung ready na talaga ang mga vaccines (I don’t know how many doses will be purchased from Russia, how many will be purchased from other parts of the globe. I guess that will depend later on on when the vaccines are ready),” he said.

On Monday, Duterte said he will seek a discount from China and Russia on the Covid-19 vaccines that each of the two countries have developed.

“I will ask the — my friend (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin and (Chinese) President Xi Jinping to give us a credit, parang utang (like a loan), a credit line but we will pay not in one payment but by installments. Basta ang sinasabi ko magbayad tayo. Hindi ito libre (I’m just saying that we’ll pay for it. It’s not free),” Duterte said.

Duterte expressed hope that the two leaders would understand his plight amid the global recession.

“As I would always tell them that we are willing and if we are short of money by this time because all of the economy of the world, individual countries, have fallen flat. Lahat ngayon nagkakaroon ng (Every country is experiencing) economic hemorrhage. It is uncontrollable because people cannot really work. They cannot be productive. And so you have a problem at hand,” he said.

Duterte has reiterated he would borrow money or sell public properties, in case a vaccine or medicine for Covid-19 is developed.

The Philippine government is currently in talks with several Covid-19 vaccine developers from the United States, China, and the United Kingdom for the possible purchase, once vaccines become available.

Last week, Duterte accepted Russia’s offer to supply the Philippines with a vaccine and even volunteered to be the first person to be injected in the country.

The Philippines will begin Phase 3 of the Russia-funded clinical trials of the Sputnik V vaccine from October 2020 to March 2021.

Malacañang, last July, thanked China for its commitment to prioritize the Philippines’ request for immediate access to the Covid-19 vaccine it is developing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin earlier guaranteed that China will prioritize the Philippines, once Beijing becomes successful in developing a Covid-19 vaccine. (PNA)

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