Prepare vaccine logistics war chest; procurement only half the problem – Salceda

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The chairperson of House Committee on Ways and Means Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has urged Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez and Budget and Management Secretary Wendel Avisado to prepare what he calls a “national war chest for vaccine logistics.”

Salceda cautioned the officials that even when the vaccines are procured, local governments and the Department of Health (DOH) may need to improve vaccine delivery.

“Every day counts in this drive for vaccines. The greatest loss of opportunity costs would be if the vaccine were to arrive and we are not able to deliver them to the public as quickly. Procurement is only half the problem. We need to prepare logistics,” Salceda said, anticipating the first shipment of vaccines this February.

“The record of the DOH when it comes to efficient delivery of vaccines for different diseases is mixed. So, the existing structures obviously do not inspire confidence,” Salceda added.

Salceda points out that in the United States, while 35.9 million doses have already been delivered to states, only 16.5 million has been administered. Backlog issues such as lack of personnel, storage, or vaccination sites are hampering vaccine delivery in the US.

“We need to learn from these issues and not repeat them here,” Salceda said.

The House tax chief says that the administration costs will “probably be 10-25 percent of the total vaccine budget, depending on the challenges to specific areas. Of course, it will cost more to vaccinate Baguio or Legazpi than Manila because of logistics.”

Transport, supply dependability to be issues

Salceda pointed out that “seemingly small” issues such as transporting vaccines and people to vaccine sites, and the reliability of supply will be major issues once the rollout begins.

He said that it is extremely important that LGUs are provided the help they need to plan the time-and-motion for the rollout. Pfizer vaccines, for example, have to be stored in the cold, he quipped, and the vaccines come in bottles of 4-5 doses. “If some patients come in late, that wastes the bottle on them. These are seemingly minor issues that will add up if we don’t plan for them,” Salceda stressed.

Logistics funding possible under Bayanihan sa Bakuna

Salceda reiterates that his Bayanihan sa Bakuna Act, or House Bill No. 8285 allows the government to realign available funds for logistics.

“The GAA for 2021 only has 2.5 billion for vaccines, so we will probably have to realign, because the price tag for procurement alone is around P75 billion. I expect the logistics to cost at least another P15 billion. We only extended the validity of Bayanihan 2 and 2020 appropriations, not the power to realign itself. Bayanihan sa Bakuna allows that,” Salceda explains.

“I think eventually we will need grants to LGUs to administer the vaccine. That is the best practice in Europe and the US, to devolve vaccination to the local governments who can do it, and help those who can’t,” he added.

“Economic recovery now hinges almost exclusively on how quickly we can restore confidence through quick vaccination. We have to get it done right and done fast,” Salceda concluded.

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