SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go has urged the government to prepare and plan for the possible procurement of COVID-19 booster shots in the near future, but said that the priority for now should be on vaccinating the unvaccinated.
“Bukas po tayo sa posibilidad na sa hinaharap, baka kailanganin nating magbigay ng COVID-19 booster shots upang masigurong protektado ang ating mga kababayan laban sa virus,” said Go.
“Ngunit prayoridad po natin sa ngayon ang siguruhin munang bakunado ang mga Pilipino ayon sa ating vaccine guidelines,” he added.
The senator said that there is PhP45.4 billion in the Unprogrammed Fund for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, and that more assessments must be done to ensure that they are procured efficiently when needed. The Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases are currently studying the possibility of giving booster shots to healthcare workers in the near future.
“Importanteng paghandaan na natin ito. Baka kailanganin natin ng booster lalo na dahil sa mga naglalabasang variants,” said Go during the deliberation of the 2022 budget of the DOH on October 13.
“Dapat din natin masiguro… na may sapat na pondo para sa mga vaccinators dahil tuluy-tuloy ang pagbabakuna natin hanggang sa susunod na taon. Napansin ko na sa kalagitnaan ng taon naghanap pa sila ng pondo para dito,” he added.
Although Health Secretary Francisco Duque III supports administering COVID-19 booster doses to healthcare personnel in the future, he believes that a bigger percentage of the country’s population must be vaccinated first.
Go further mentioned that vaccination coverage outside of Metro Manila needs to be fast-tracked further. Seniors and those with comorbidities who haven’t been vaccinated should be prioritized before providing booster shots to others, as these seniors and persons with comorbidities are more susceptible to the severe form of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, during a hearing on the DOH’s proposed budget, Go emphasized the importance of ensuring that sufficient funds are available to continue and expand efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Go, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, particularly called for the inclusion of additional resources to ensure the continuous provision of allowances for the country’s HCWs.
“Sa ating laban kontra COVID-19, isa sa pinaka-importante na dapat nating masigurado ay ang kapakanan ng ating healthcare workers. Sabi ko nga, hindi naman mababayaran ng kahit anuman ang buhay (nila), ngunit mahalaga ito bilang pagkilala sa sakripisyo ng ating mga healthcare workers para sa ating bayan,” he said.
Go reaffirmed his call for the approval of a bill he authored and co-sponsored that would give HCWs with a fixed monthly allowance for the duration of the present state of emergency.
He also advised the DOH to maintain working hard to help the country overcome the current crisis while ensuring that its transactions are free of anomalies.
“Utilize your budget judiciously. Nagpapasalamat po ako sa inyong sakripisyo para sa bayan. Kayo ang frontline agency ngayong pandemya at alam kong pagod na pagod na rin kayo at nagkakasakit na rin ang iba sa inyo. Pero isipin po natin ang kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan,” said Go.