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Finance chief says P20B needed to vaccinate teens vs. COVID-19

The Philippine government would need about P20 billion to inoculate the country’s younger population against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said Thursday.

“About P20 billion for approximately 15 million teenagers,” Dominguez said in a text message.

Dominguez's estimation came after reports that US regulators have authorized Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for use on children as young as 12. 

Pfizer is also seeking British approval for the use of its COVID-19 vaccine among 12 to 15-year-olds in submitting its data to the health regulator. 

Under the 2021 General Appropriations Act, the Philippine government has allotted P82.5 billion for mass vaccination program that aims to cover around 55% of the country's population.

For its anti-COVID vaccination program, the government is targeting 50 to 70 million Filipinos, but the age bracket is 18 and above.

Adolescents and children have been excluded since available COVID-19 vaccines area only allowed for use in the country is mainly for adults ages 18 years old and above, as because clinical trials have not involved children yet.

On top of the P20 billion estimated for teenagers’ vaccination, around P55 billion is also need to purchase booster shots “likely for next year,” Dominguez said.

Late in April, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the Philippine government is considering to purchase Moderna’s booster shots for COVID-19. 

“We found out that Moderna is developing a booster. ‘Yung booster na 'yun, puwedeng gamitin kahit na Sinovac o kahit na Gamaleya ang ating nauna"(The booster could be used even for Sinovac and Gamaleya vaccines), Galvez said during a congressional hearing.

Pressed on how the government would raise the the money, Dominguez said it is “still to be determined.”

Of the country’s P82.5-billion budget for vaccination, P12.5 billion will be sourced from the COVID-19 vaccination program allocation under Republic Act (RA) No. 11494 or the Bayanihan To Recover As One Act or Bayanihan 2.

And, the remaining P70 billion will be sourced from loans provided by multilateral lenders, the Philippines’ bilateral partners, and/or the domestic market. —LBG, GMA News