Finance Chief assures public, gov’t has enough funds to buy COVID-19 vaccines

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Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III

By Victoria “NIKE” De Dios

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Thursday the government has adequate funds to purchase vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) for the 20 million poorest Filipinos once these become available and approved for distribution, most probably by December.

Dominguez said the exact amount needed will depend on whatever vaccine or vaccines the Department of Health (DOH) will determine to be the most suitable for inoculation.

An estimated P20 billion (about US$400 million) may be needed to inoculate a minimum of 20 million persons, Dominguez said.

“We have a plan and we can execute it as soon as the DOH chooses which vaccine or vaccines they want. Maybe, you (DOH) will choose several,” Dominguez informed President Duterte during Thursday night’s meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), portions of which were broadcast this morning.

Dominguez said the government is looking at the United States, the United Kingdom and China as sources for COVID-19 vaccine doses.

As of this week, six COVID-19 vaccine candidates have entered Phase 3 trials, which involve testing doses on volunteers. These vaccine candidates are from the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and China.

Dominguez said the Department of Finance (DOF) has proposed a process in buying the vaccines, which involves the Philippine International Trading Corp (PITC), a state-owned firm attached to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), purchasing the required doses.

The Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) will provide the funds for the purchase.

“The financing is available for this program,” Dominguez told the President during the IATF meeting.

Dominguez said that once the vaccine is available, the economy can be fully opened and Filipinos can start to return to their normal, pre-COVID-19, way of life.