Palace says not all Filipinos may get free COVID-19 vaccine
Malacanang clarified on Thursday not all the 113 million Filipinos might get free vaccine against coronavirus disease once it becomes available.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said under the Universal Health Care Law, the COVID-19 vaccine should be free.
"However, we are not sure if PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corp.) has sufficient fund," he said, noting that PhilHealth could not even pay the RT-PCR tests by the Philippine National Red Cross.
He said the government should prepare additional funds not coming from PhilHealth if it would make the COVID-19 vaccine free for all Filipinos.
"But I'm confident, not all need to be given free (vaccine) because not many can afford US$20 for a vaccine," he said.
Roque's statement came after Duterte, in a televised message on Wednesday night, said he wants all the 113 million Filipinos to get vaccine for free.
He has said the government has the initial fund for the vaccine, but he has to look for other sources of money so all Filipinos receive the free vaccine.
According to Duterte, to be prioritized are the poorest Filipinos who are on the list of the Department of Social Welfare and Development as well as soldiers and policemen.
At the same time, Roque denied that Duterte's vaccine promise is a "political placebo."
"It is based on science. The fact that many (vaccines) have been already on third clinical trial means that the remedy is there; there is light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
In his televised addresses, Duterte said a vaccine for COVID-19 would soon come out as he is particularly banking on China and Russia. Celerina Monte/DMS