P75B required for expanded vaccination

The Philippines is looking to step up its coronavirus vaccination campaign in the coming months, as vaccine stocks arrive. – STAR PHILIPPINE / MICHAEL VARCAS

THE government could must spend an additional 75 billion pesos until next year to fund its expanded coronavirus immunization program, the finance chief said Thursday.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said government agencies may have to realign their budgets again to secure funds for the program without deepening the budget deficit too much.

“With the announcement that some countries will vaccinate adolescents and the hope that we will eventually follow this example, we are forecasting an additional expenditure of around 20 billion pesos to vaccinate around 15 million children between the ages of 12 and 17,” he told reporters via Viber.

Mr Dominguez said the government needs to raise 55 billion pesos to acquire 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) booster injections to cover 85 million Filipinos, including adults and adolescents, next year .

While it’s still unclear whether booster shots will be needed to protect against future variants of COVID-19, countries like the United States are already preparing.

Manufacturers of drugs such as Moderna, Inc., PFizer, Inc. and Johnson & Johnson are developing booster shots to help boost protection against COVID-19.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has cleared the vaccine for use by PFizer and BioNTech SE for children aged 12 to 15.

Mr Dominguez said the vaccination program for children could start this year, although the health ministry has yet to Fifinalize it.

The estimated budget of 75 billion pesos for the expanded immunization campaign will add to the 72.5 billion pesos previously set aside for inoculating at least 60 million Filipino adults this year. The mass immunization program was initially funded by loans from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Wednesday signed Administrative Order No.41 directing all state offices to identify parts of their 2020 budgets that can be considered savings. The validity of the 2020 budget has been extended until December 31.

While agencies have been ordered to report their identiFihe savings made by the end of May, Dominguez said he had not determined the amount that could be raised through budget realignments.

Budget Secretary Wendel E. Avisado said earlier that they were looking to tap various sources to possibly support a third stimulus package, including realignment of state agency funds and state grants. companies.

The government cut budgets for several agencies last year to redirect funds for pandemic relief programs. The agencies with the largest budget cuts were the Ministry of Public Works and Highways, the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Education.

Mr Avisado said the 2021 budget for infrastructure projects worth 1.2 trillion pesos would not be affected as the program is expected to boost economic recovery.

The budget department released 3,613 billion pesos, or 80.2 percent of this year’s 4.5 trillion peso spending plan, in April.

The latest official data showed that the Philippine government had released 646.97 billion pesos for pandemic-related programs as of mid-April.

Foreign loans guaranteed for its response to the pandemic reached $ 18.4 billion last month, after the state increased borrowing to cover its skyrocketing deficit which accounts for 8.9% of gross domestic product this year. – Beatrice M. Laforga

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