Even if the government could not provide free coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccines to all Filipinos, Malacañang on Thursday said it is confident that the vaccines would be affordable to many Filipinos.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after President Rodrigo Duterte said it would be “ideal” for every Filipino to be inoculated with the vaccine.
Roque did not directly confirm that the government would give the vaccine for free, but he was sure that the poor, police, military, and front-liners would be shouldered by government.
“So 20 million initially po ang bibilhin natin para sa mahihirap at para po sa ating kapulisan at sa ating mga militar and mga front-liners. (Initially, we will buy for the 20 million poor and for our police, military, and front-liners),” he said.
Roque said Covid-19 vaccine is estimated to cost USD10 per dose. Two dosages are required per individual.
“Hindi naman po ganoon kamahal ang estimate natin sa bakuna. Ang estimate po ni Secretary Dominguez, USD10 per dose at kinakailangan dalawang dosage so USD20 per person (The vaccine is not that expensive. The estimate of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III is USD10 per dose and we need two dosages so USD20 per person),” he said.
Roque said an estimated PHP2 billion will be spent to inoculate the priority demographics. He said this amount is already included in the proposed PHP4.5-trillion national budget for 2021.
He also noted that USD12 billion would be needed to inoculate 113 million Filipinos.
“Roughly, we would need around 12 billion dollars kung ililibre natin lahat ang bakuna. Pero I’m confident naman po, hindi kinakailangang ilibre ang lahat kasi marami naman pong can afford USD20 for a vaccine (if we will shoulder the cost. But I’m confident that it won’t be necessary because there are many who can afford USD20 for a vaccine),” he said.
To buy the vaccines, Roque said the government will borrow from the Philippine International Trading Corp., Land Bank of the Philippines, and the Development Bank of the Philippines.
Roque, meanwhile, shrugged off criticism that the promise of a vaccine has become Duterte’s “political placebo.”
“It is based on science. The fact na ang dami na pong nasa third clinical trial, means na nandiyan na po talaga ang remedyo (The fact that there are many vaccines on their third clinical trial means that there really is a remedy); there is light at the end of the tunnel. So hinay-hinay lang po (Take your time), hang in there, malapit na pong matapos ito (this pandemic is almost over),” he said.
He also said the President’s remarks about vaccine were intended to address Filipinos’ “pandemic fatigue.”
Duterte, he said, is a “voracious news reader” and knew about the latest developments of some vaccines.
In an interview over Unang Hirit, Roque also bared that three potential Covid-19 vaccines will undergo clinical trials in the Philippines.
“Mayroon po tayong tatlo na magkakaroon tayo ng clinical trials at kasama na po diyan iyong Russia at saka iyong sa China. At kung hindi po ako nagkakamali, mayroon pang isang Western company, hindi ko lang po masigurado kung ito po iyong Oxford o ito iyong sa Amerika, pero tatlo po iyan (We have three companies that will hold clinical trials including Russia and China. If I’m not mistaken, there’s one Western company, I’m just not sure if it’s Oxford or this one from America, but there are three of them),” he said.
Last week, the Department of Science and Technology announced that the Russian’s Sputnik V, the China’s Sinovac, and Janssen from Johnson & Johnson will be tested in the Philippines.
In a taped address on Wednesday night, Duterte said the government has set aside funds to buy a Covid-19 vaccine but will need more if it will inoculate the entire population. (PNA)