Achieving herd immunity

Achieving herd immunity

Infographic courtesy by the American Medical Association

Last week, we heard Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez say an allocation of P25 billion to cover the inoculation of children aged 12 years old and above may be needed by the government.

He also told the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing that, pending confirmation by the country’s health authorities, they were preparing for the purchase of booster shots of one dose for roughly 85 million adults and teenagers.

Dominguez said this could cost roughly P60 billion. The proposal is to include such supplemental amounts in the 2022 budget.

He also disclosed that the country’s total debt as a share of GDP was expected to rise to 58.7 percent in 2021. This figure was 54.6 percent in 2020 and a historic low of 39.6 percent in 2019.

Despite the increase, he noted the administrations “prudent debt management” gave the country the fiscal headroom to deal with the pandemic.

Because of this, he said the anticipated temporary rise in debt remained within the prescribed bounds of fiscal viability

At the same time, Dominguez said this year the country’s budget gap was expected to widen to P1.86 trillion, about 36 percent higher than last year. This is about 9.3 percent of the country’s GDP.

The larger budget deficit would require P3.1 trillion in borrowings in 2021, roughly the same level as last year. These borrowings will be sourced mainly from the local markets at around 75 percent and 25 percent from abroad.

Indeed, financing the country’s vaccine purchases was a specific subset of the country’s overall fiscal management.

According to Dominguez the total budget for the procurement of vaccines amounted to P88.6 billion. This should be enough to procure about 148 million doses and inoculate at least 70 million Filipinos or 100 percent of our adult population.

Of the P88.6-billion funding, P2.5 billion forms part of the budget of the Department of Health under the 2021 General Appropriations Act.

The P10 billion are funds under the Bayanihan 2 law allocated for the COVID-19 vaccination program.

The remaining P3.26 billion comes from other sources in the 2021 National Budget and the Bayanihan 2.

Around P57.3 billion are sourced through concessional loans from the country’s multilateral partners, such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Up to P12.7 billion will come from other financing sources as may be necessary while the P2.8 billion are from the contingency funds.

We are also aware that areas under modified enhanced community quarantine, the second toughest lockdown level, will now be prioritized in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination drive.

This, after President Rodrigo Duterte authorized the deployment of more anti-coronavirus jabs to areas with increasing infections.

The Visayas and Mindanao areas have been “showing faster increase” in the number of new COVID-19 cases, according to the Department of Health.

As of June 8, Mindanao logged 13,425 active COVID-19 cases, while Visayas recorded 9,725 new coronavirus patients, according to data from the DOH.

We get upbeat hearing that the government has more than enough funds to achieve herd immunity at least for this year, and should focus more on ensuring the efficient rollout of COVID vaccines.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson has cited figures from Secretary Dominguez indicating the government had P5 billion more than needed for herd immunity for 2021.

“At P446 per dose including logistical costs, we will need P52.3 billion. We have already secured P57.3 billion through borrowings, so we have a surplus of P5 billion for herd immunity,” Lacson said during the Senate Committee of the Whole’s hearing on the national COVID-19 vaccination program.

For his part, Senate President Vicente Sotto III agreed: “The bottom line is the rollout.”

Lacson said that to achieve herd immunity, the government would need P52.343 billion to procure 117,361,601 target doses at P446 per dose, including logistical costs. (AI/MTVN)

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