Filipinos could count on a COVID-19 vaccine procured from China around December this year, President Duterte announced on Friday.
In meeting the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) broadcast live over state-owned PTV-4, Duterte said he already procured such a vaccine from China that will start the ‘road to recovery’ for the Philippines.
“I got something from China. Just hang in there a little more. I could not utter a single word about any roadmap to recovery because the first thing about that is really medicine,” Duterte said.
He then made a commitment that by December, the country’s health crisis should turn around and begin the journey back to normal as the vaccine is distributed free among the public.
“By December, we would be back to normal. By December this should all be done. (And) this is what I guarantee. The first to receive (the vaccine) will be the poorest of the poor (and) those extended financial assistance by the government in hospitals. After them comes the middle-income families. This will be free,” the President said in Filipino.
In a separate development, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, as Senate Committee on Health and Demography chairman, reiterated his call urging health policymakers and concerned agencies to prepare a national COVID-19 vaccine program ensure accessibility and price of the vaccine even for the poor and vulnerable sectors.
“Once the vaccine is available, we should be ready to deploy them for those in need, particularly the poor,” Go said in Filipino.
Go forewarns that difficult decisions have to be made once the vaccine is available. He stressed the need to plan ahead and anticipate scenarios to ensure the vaccine is accessible to those who need it the most.
At the virtual launch of the country’s 77th Malasakit Center in Guimaras, Go also said action plans centering on the vaccine are being crafted by health executives in tandem with finance officials.
“I spoke with Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III who committed to find a way to finance the purchase of such a vaccine when available,” Go said.
As that happens, Go stressed no one should be left behind, especially the vulnerable sectors who must be prioritized if possible.
President Duterte on Friday appealed for the public to cooperate and trust government as the Philippines looks to procure COVID-19 vaccines first from China.
He vowed to give the vaccine free of charge on the truly needy and those already sick in hospitals. Only later would middle income families get their hands on the vaccine, he said.
In response, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the Philippine International Trading Corporation will help in the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.
According to Dominguez, the Philippines needs to vaccinate for free 20 million Filipinos: “If one to two shots are needed, that is around 40 million doses and at around $10 per dose, that is $400 M or P20 B.”
Dominguez said financing the purchase should not be a problem because the government has money and inflation, which often complicates public finance, is “well within target.”
We are the strongest currency in the region,” Dominguez said of the local unit that on Friday hit a three-year high of 49.80 per dollar as the surplus in its balance of payments widened.
The Philippines is closely monitoring the latest on vaccines being developed in China, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The President said he asked China to prioritize the Philippines in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines once this becomes available.
China Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin affirmed Duterte’s request as the country considers the Philippines a ‘friendly close neighbor.’
To date, the Philippines has over 89,000 cases of COVID-19 with recoveries numbering more than 65,000 and a death toll of 1,983.