PH eyeing $300M loan for COVID-19 vaccines

MANILA – The government is planning to borrow USD300 million to purchase doses of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine for all Filipinos, President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday night.

Duterte, however, acknowledged that it might take some time before the country acquires doses of a vaccine since pharmaceutical companies would prioritize their nations first.

“(Finance Secretary) Sonny (Dominguez) says that he can borrow money of USD300 million. So malaki iyan. Makakabili tayo but I think it would do as well to also realize that unahin talaga nila iyong mga tao nila (That’s huge. We can purchase the vaccine but I think it would do as well to also realize that they would prioritize their people first),” he said in a taped public address. “So, you can expect that within the few months until next year, all of those vaccines produced will be used for the Americans.”

The President acknowledged that purchasing the vaccines early would be expensive but noted that the threat of Covid-19 has become less scary as some pharmaceutical firms in the US and China have made progress in developing the life-saving vaccines.

US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer, which developed the vaccine with the German drugmaker BioNTech, announced that its potential Covid-19 vaccine was 90 percent effective, based on its clinical trials.

“China na o Pfizer of America, mayroon na sila. So hindi na nakakatakot talaga ang Covid. But sa pagka ngayon magbili ka, mahal (China or Pfizer of America, they already have a vaccine. Covid isn’t so scary anymore. But if you buy them now, they’ll be expensive),” he said.

Duterte also said that once the vaccine supply is available, the government would prioritize the poor in the distribution.

“As I have promised, ang gastos ng gobyerno itong bakuna para sa lahat ng Pilipino. Kaya nga uumpisahan natin sa mga mahihirap, pataas na ano (the government will shoulder the cost of the vaccine for all Filipinos. That’s why we will start with the poor going up),” he said, noting that middle- to high-income Filipinos could pay for their own vaccine.

Duterte sought patience from the public, reiterating that the challenge lies in the vaccine supply rather than the acquisition of funds.

“So iyan mga kababayan ko, basta mabakunahan kayo. Kailan? Maghintay lang tayo. Pera? Makahiram tayo kaagad. Ang suplay ang problema. Kung sino iyong country nakapag-imbento, naturalmente unahin niya iyong mga tao niya. That’s the reality of life (Let’s make sure you get vaccinated. When? Just wait. Money? We could borrow immediately. The supply is the problem. Naturally, the country that invents the vaccine would prioritize its people. That’s the reality of life),” he said.

The President said recent vaccine developments mean hope that life would return to normal.“The vaccine is near. There is a hope for mankind. Pero ako, wala pang bakuna ito, hindi na ako takot. Maybe, maybe not, depende sa suwerte mo sa buhay. But for the succeeding generations, mga anak ko, mga apo ko, I am quite confident with the thought that they have a refuge which they can take shelter dito sa Covid storm (But for me, even without the vaccine, I am not scared. Maybe, maybe not, depends on how lucky you are in life. But for the succeeding generations, for my children, my grandchildren, I am quite confident with the thought that they have a refuge that they can take shelter from the Covid storm,” he said. (PNA)