THE Philippines is now part of a program that will let it buy three million doses of coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available, according to the Science and Technology department.

Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato T. De la Peña told a news briefing on Tuesday the Philippines was now part of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) program under the World Health Organization.

“We have committed to join the COVAX facility where the vaccines will be available, and we reserved 3% that corresponds to 3% of our population, which is three million,” he said in Filipino.

This would ensure access to the vaccines once they become available, he added.

An inter-agency task force made up of Cabinet officials has discussed the plan with the Budget department, which has allotted P1.5 billion for the program, Mr. De la Peña said. A dose will cost about $10 or P500.

The government is also negotiating with three Chinese and two Taiwanese institutions that are in advanced stages of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) vaccine testing, he said. It may also talk to Russia, he added.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte in his yearly address to Congress last month said he had pleaded with Chinese President Xi Jinping to prioritize the Philippines for supply once it finds a vaccine for the coronavirus. — Gillian M. Cortez