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HOUSE Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) says that talks on any Bayanihan package “including realignment of Bayanihan 2 funds and a new Bayanihan 3 package” must include aid for local governments unable to procure facilities capable of handling and properly administering Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.

Salceda made the comments in anticipation of some 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna and another 40 million doses from Pfizer. Some 13.3 million doses of Pfizer alone are arriving in July, according to National Task Force (NTF) Chair Carlito Galvez.

“The only way to equalize access to vaccines is to ensure that even poor LGUs have access to the facilities needed to store and administer COVID-19 vaccines. Storage facilities can be expensive, so we need to support those LGUs that cannot afford to procure these facilities on their own,” Salceda said.

“Sinovac has been safe and effective, fortunately. And it’s the only vaccine that any LGUs can store. But as more vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer arrive, it’s also a supply preservation strategy to ensure that we diffuse the distribution of these vaccines across more localities where demand already exists,” Salceda said.

“Sec. Galvez has been very supportive of LGU efforts to flatten their respective surges and vaccinate the vulnerable. Albay and other provinces are very grateful. I would add the additional advice or request to the NTF, though, that we release guidelines to the LGUs on what they need to procure or prepare to ensure proper handling of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Same appeal to Secretary Ano. I’m sure they will be as proactive about this as they have been with our other requests,” Salceda also said.

Salceda also said that “typically, the administration and storage of vaccines is about as expensive if not more expensive than the vaccines themselves.”

“The experience of the United States is that for every dollar spent on buying the vaccines, around 1.2 dollars were spent to store and administer the vaccines. We will probably spend much less, given the granularity of our health institutions. We have barangay health workers that they do not have. But, we will still have to be ready,” Salceda said.

“If local government support funds will not be made available, we could at the very least streamline a process where the BLGF approves requests for loans of the LGUs to purchase storage and administration facilities and personnel,” Salceda explained.

Bayanihan 3 discussions to proceed after SONA

Salceda said that the House leadership continues to believe “that a true stimulus strategy is still necessary even during the budget talks”

“Budget talks begin in August, so we have a month to craft a stimulus strategy for the rest of the year. Of course, the most important stimulus is vaccination, so we have to get it right,” Salceda added.

Session resumes in Congress on July 26, after the State of the Nation Address.

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