DOH assures ample funds for emerging Covid variants, updated vaccines

MANILA: The Department of Health (DOH) on Wednesday assured lawmakers that there are ample funds to prepare for the emerging Covid-19 variants, including the procurement of updated vaccine doses to protect vulnerable Filipinos.

DOH Undersecretary Achilles Gerard Bravo made the assurance during the oversight hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations after Marikina City 2nd District Rep. Stella Quimbo expressed shock over a newspaper headline suggesting a lack of preparation to protect Filipinos from the new ‘FLIRT’ variants driving a wave of infections worldwide.

During the hearing, Quimbo noted the DOH’s significant yet underutilized funds after a presentation of the agency’s budget utilization report.

She said various funding sources, such as the quick response fund and the communicable disease program, remain largely untapped.

Bravo confirmed the availability of funds, and assured the committee of the DOH’s readiness to adjust its budget.

‘Madam chair, you are correct. So, what we will do is tha
t we have so many funds at the DOH, even from the CONAP (Continuing Appropriations) in 2023 and the current. If there’s a need to provide something for the emerging Covid variant, we can always make some modifications within our budget,’ he said.

‘What we are doing right now is we are collating all the resources of DOH kung ilan ang savings at CONAP ng (how much are savings and CONAP of) other programs, and then we will decide ano yung i-prioritize kasi ‘yung (what will be prioritized because the) slow-moving appropriations, we are going to modify them and transfer them to fast-moving appropriations.’

House Deputy Majority Leader and Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin urged preparedness for the emerging ‘FLIRT’ variant.

She highlighted the challenges of implementing border control and emphasized the importance of vaccination and access to pneumonia and flu vaccines.

‘Bottomline is, preparation should go back to either vaccination if an updated version is available, but more importantly is pneumonia, f
lu vaccines and the medicines for whoever will need it,’ Garin said.

The former Health Secretary also called for the DOH to ensure free hospitalization and medication for health care workers and immunocompromised individuals.

In response, Bravo assured that the department is utilizing its savings to meet these needs.

Meanwhile, DOH Assistant Secretary Albert Francis Domingo assured the department is continuously monitoring bed occupancy, and is ready to address any heath emergency that may occur.

The DOH earlier said the Philippines remains at low risk for Covid-19 following reports of new variants monitored abroad.

The agency said it is in close coordination with international health authorities in monitoring newly designated Covid-19 variants here and abroad.

It, however, advised the public to observe minimum public health standards amid the reports.

Source: Philippines News Agency