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Herbosa: No budget allotted for COVID-19 vaccines in 2024

The Department of Health (DOH) did not allocate any budget for the procurement of new COVID-19 vaccines for 2024, Secretary Ted Herbosa said Friday.

"Hindi kami nag-budget o nag-ano ng [we did not allocate budget for] new vaccines because the vaccines, remember, are still experimental. So we’re awaiting their final registration before we will procure them and even with the assessment of our Health Technology Assessment," he said at a press conference. 

Herbosa made the remark as the country's supply of COVID-19 monovalent and bivalent vaccines were already exhausted, following the lifting of the State of Public Health Emergency in July. 

New COVID-19 cases, along with cases of influenza-like illness, have also been increasing in the past few weeks. 

Despite this, Herbosa said that vaccines are not the solution against COVID-19 but awareness to health risks. 

"Hindi vaccine ang solusyon eh [vaccines are not the solution]. We’ve learned the solution — it's minimum public health standards. Again, managing your own personal risks. Ito 'yung na-change na narrative [this was the changed narrative]. During the pandemic, the government tried to protect everyone. Blanket. Now it's back to individual-based risk management," he said. 

Monovalent XBB jabs

Herbosa said that the Philippines will be receiving from COVAX facility a million doses of the new COVID-19 monovalent vaccines that specifically target the Omicron XBB subvariant of COVID-19.

"We've been offered one million doses and I’m accepting it from COVAX. Im accepting it in tranches of 500,000 para magkaron din tayo ng [so we could also have] access," he said. 

Herbosa previously said that monovalent vaccines work better against the Omicron variant as compared to bivalent vaccines. The vaccines will be administered to at-risk populations, particularly the senior citizens and persons with comorbidities.

In October, Herbosa said the DOH would assess whether or not there is a need to procure monovalent vaccines. He said the agency would await the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) and will observe what the other countries will do regarding the new vaccine. —KBK, GMA Integrated News