AT LEAST 12,686 Covid-19 vaccine doses have been wasted since the start of the government’s inoculation program, a Department of Health (DOH) official disclosed on Wednesday.

Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said that most of the wastage was a result of the vaccines being exposed to changes in  temperature.

“Either those vaccines were damaged due to freezing for they need not be frozen in the first place; and there were vaccines that were frozen but have gone past their required temperature. Some were damaged due to fire incidents, a few amount were dropped, others have no label,” Cabotaje said at the hearing of the Committee on Finance Subcommittee D, chaired by Sen. Pia Cayetano, on the proposed 2022 budgets of the Department of Health and its attached agencies.

Sen. Risa Honteviros said that based on the estimate average cost of the vaccine which is P544, the estimated cost of the wastage is P 6.9 million. Cabotaje agreed.

Booster shots

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson questioned anew the allotted P45 billion for booster shots under the proposed 2022 national budget.

According to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III, the vaccine doses by the end of the year is over 195 million and there will be an additional 90 million vaccine doses.

With this, Lacson said that there would be an oversupply of vaccines already, since the DOH is asking for P45-billion budget for the booster shots while the eligible population to receive the Covid-19 vaccines is at 68 million population (18 and above).

Duque, on the other hand, said that the195 million doses will cover 97.5 million individuals and that President Duterte wanted to vaccinate as many people as possible.

DOH budget

Duque presented before the committee their P242.22-billion proposed budget for 2022, which is 14 percent higher than its current 2021 budget.

Of the proposed budget, the Office of the Secretary will get P157.03 billion for its programs, and P510 million for its attached agencies – the National Nutrition Council and the Philippine National AIDS Council.

A total P84.51 billion is being budgeted for the attached state corporation-run facilities such as the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP), the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI), the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PMMC), the Philippine Heart Center (PHC).

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) will get P79.99 billion under the proposed budget.

On Monday, health workers from the government specialty hospitals staged a protest to condemn the P1-billion budget cut on Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) of all Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCC) hospitals. 

“We, health workers are resentful and enraged with the Duterte government because in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and health crisis, it has the gall to reduce the budget for the MOOE of four GOCC hospitals by P1 billion. This government is inhumane and has no compassion for the health and lives of the people, especially the vagrants and destitute who cannot afford to pay heavily for their hospitalization,” said Robert Mendoza, Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) National President. 

The PCMC suffered the biggest budget cut with P891 million, followed by the LCP with P100-million cut, P28 million for PHC and P8-million cut in MOOE for NKTI.

They noted that the MOOE budget reduction would mean, “no available medicines and medical supplies, insufficient payment for salaries of contractual health workers and no budget for the Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA) incentives to unionized health workers. Hence, patients will be expecting higher fees for laboratory procedures and room rates as part of the income generation scheme of these hospitals.”

With the budget cut, they said, many indigent patients will be sent away and deprived of the medical services of these hospitals.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, assured them the DOH is moving to have the funds restored.

“We are appealing, I think our medical center chiefs know this, that the DOH is appealing for additional MOOE for our specialty hospitals, not just for them but also all our hospitals,” Vergeire said in an online forum.

Vergeire said they talked to the congressmen and senators about the problem.

“They were very supportive and they are aware that our hospitals are in need of additional budget,” she added.





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