June 23, 2024

The Department of Health assured there are ample funds to prepare for the emerging Covid-19 variants, including the procurement of updated vaccine doses to protect vulnerable Filipinos.

DOH Usec. 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 that we have so many funds at the DOH, even from the 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.

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.

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

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

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