DOF SAYS: ‘Make booster shots part of budget’

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    Fight goes on. A vaccination facility in Makati caters to residents and workers in this Sept. 29, 2021 photo. The National Expenditure Program for 2022 has allocated P45.3 billion for booster shots under unprogrammed appropriations. (Photo by RHOY COBILLA)

    The country’s finance chief is optimistic the next administration will continue to include the booster shots against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in its plans, as it has become a necessary investment in people’s health.

    Carlos Dominguez, Department of Finance (DOF) secretary, told reporters in a recent virtual briefing the booster shots are needed for the economy to safely open.

    “This is an investment really in people’s health. And without that, I don’t think the economy can safely open. If we don’t have booster shots, we’ll have ups and downs in our economic recovery program so it’s really mandatory that we provide vaccines,” Dominguez said.

    Asked if he thinks the budget for boosters will get a regular allocation in the national budget, Dominguez said: “I cannot say beyond 2022, but I’m sure the succeeding administration will keep that in mind that these vaccines are really insurance. It’s really a necessary input now into the economy.”

    Dominguez also raised the big possibility of other technologies being developed to address COVID-19.

    “One company is already experimenting with some pills to lessen the effects of the coronavirus, others are developing some kind of nasal spray to guard against this, I think the technology will develop,” Dominguez said.

    “And as shown the prices will go down. The prices of vaccines as the manufacturing gets more and more efficient, are certainly going to drop,” he added.

    The National Expenditure Program for 2022 has allocated P45.3 billion for booster shots under unprogrammed appropriations.

    Earlier, Dominguez said the government is eyeing to tap multilateral institutions for the P45.3 billion required to fund the COVID-19 booster shots.

    “Exploratory discussions with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the World Bank have been initiated to help determine possible funding sources for additional vaccine requirements in 2022,” Dominguez said.

    “We expect to execute loan agreements towards the end of the year,” he added.

    Mark Joven, DOF undersecretary, said in the same briefing the loan agreement with ADB and AIIB is expected to be signed before the year ends, probably by November, while the one with the World Bank will either be December 2021 or January 2022.