Health Secretary Francisco Duque III (MNS Photo)

MANILA, Sept 18 (Mabuhay) — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Saturday said they are considering “ethical issues” in the push for booster shots as he noted that there are more Filipinos who have not received even one dose of COVID-19 vaccines yet.

Duque said the policy for booster shots is still under the evaluation of the Vaccine Expert Panel (VEP) and the all experts groups on COVID-19 vaccines.

“Ito ay pinag-aaralan sa kasalukuyan. Mahirap kasi na maging policy, bigyan ng booster dose lahat ng nakatanggap ng kumpletong bakuna. Paano ‘yung mga ni isa ‘di nakatanggap? So may ethical issue,” he said.

(We are studying this because it is hard to implement this policy on booster shots when there are individuals who have not received their first dose yet. There is an ethical issue here.)

“Kasi magbibigay ka ng booster sa isa tapos marami pang mga tao na mahihirap na hindi pa nakakatanggap ng isang turok. Parang mahirap i-justify ‘di ba?” he added.

Duque said that even the World Health Organization is not recommending the need for booster shots yet as the global supply for COVID-19 vaccines is still lacking, especially in low to middle income countries like the Philippines.

Nevertheless, Duque said the government will prepare funds for the procurement of COVID-19 booster shots.

Under the 2022 National Expenditures Program proposed by the the Duterte administration, there is an allocation of P45 billion for the procurement of COVID-19 booster shots.

This, however, was lodged under unprogrammed appropriations which means the budget for the booster shots will only be funded if there are excess revenues or collections, or if the government receives funds from loans or grants.

Duque justified this, saying the Department of Finance (DOF) has made a commitment to fund the budget for COVID-19 booster shots and they are just waiting for the approval of the VEP and the all experts group for COVID-19 vaccines.

“Binigyan kami ng commitment ng DOF na hahanapan ng pondo ‘yan. Ang kinakailangan e ang go signal ng ating VEP at all experts group na ito ang recommendation natin,” he said.

Last week, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the lodging of the P45 billion for booster shots is part of the government’s preparation for negotiations with vaccine manufacturers. (MNS)

Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier asked the economic managers how the government could utilize the proposed P45-billion funds for the procurement of COVID-19 booster shots when the government is still lagging behind its “ambitious” vaccination target. (MNS)

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