Only 10 countries cornered initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccines — Duterte

Published February 24, 2021, 11:52 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The Philippines would have to wait for coronavirus supplies and comply with health protocols after the bulk of doses have been secured by only 10 countries, President Duterte declared Wednesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte

According to the President, these few countries have dispersed 75 percent of the world’s coronavirus supply while the 130 countries have yet to receive their doses.

“There are only 10 countries today. In fact, 75 percent of all vaccination, sitenta’y singko porsyento nang lahat ng bakuna, nakuha ng 10 countries, sampu lang. Iyong 130, wala. So, maghintay tayo (The 130 countries have none yet so let’s just wait),” Duterte said during his televised address Wednesday, Feb. 24.

While majority of the countries still awaited for supply, Duterte said even the United States and Canada were fighting over vaccine supply.

“Canada nga na kapitbahay ng Amerika nagdadamutan pa sila. Kino-corner talaga ng Amerika lahat ngayon kasi they have about 270 million people…332 million (Canada and United States are neighbors but are being selfish. America has really cornered all because they have about 332 million),” he added.

Pending the arrival of the vaccines, the President urged anew the public to observe health protocols, most especially wearing masks to avoid getting infected. Duterte showed his white face mask, saying it can save people “a lot of trouble and expense.”

“I’m not trying to, I said, pontificate here. Iyong in the meantime, you just better follow government at iwasan…Iyong — iyong mask, ito. Ito it can save you a lot of trouble and expense. Simple lang ito (This is simple),” he said.

United Nations Secretary António Guterres recently found unfair that around 10 countries have control over the majority of the vaccine supply. The UN chief lamented that vaccine equity was the “biggest moral test” before the international community.

In the Philippines, the government expects to receive 161 million doses of coronavirus by the end of the year. The supply delivery has been hampered by indemnity and regulatory requirements as well as supply challenges.

The first batch of doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by China is expected to be delivered to the country this Sunday.

In the meeting the President and other Cabinet members, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. admitted that the country has a thin COVID-19 supply line this first quarter.

Citing “indicative delivery of vaccines,” Galvez said around 3.5 million doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines through the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility. An additional 600,000 donated doses will be coming from China.

Galvez added there will be a procurement by the Department of Health of 1 million doses by March.

“Talagang manipis tayo sa first quarter. Ang total niyan is 5.1 million (We will have a thin supply this first quarter. The total will only be 5.1 million),” he told the President.

Galvez said they are negotiating for more vaccine supplies from the United Kingdom, China, Russia, India for first quarter. He said it was imperative to vaccinate around 1.7 million health care workers as well as seniors and other vulnerable citizens.

“Ito ang medyo talagang malaking problema natin dahil sa global demand, napakababa ng ating supply sa first quarter (This is really our big problem because due to global demand, we have a very low supply in the first quarter),” he said.

By the second quarter, Galvez said the country could expect 24.1 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, that includes 6 million jabs from COVAX facility. The main volume of supplies is expected to arrive in the country by third and fourth quarter of the year.

With these forthcoming supplies, he said the country’s major vaccine rollout will occur in second half of the year. He said they are trying to negotiate an early delivery of the supplies from the vaccine manufacturers even at a higher cost.

“We are expecting to receive 161 million doses by the end of 2021,” he said.

Galvez also informed the President that they are “polishing” three supply agreements with drug manufacturers in terms of indemnity and delivery.

The country has so far secured 17 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines after advance payments were made by the private sector and the local government units. Galvez said he also conducted marathon negotiations with Moderna Wednesday morning to finalize the language of the supply agreement.

He said vaccine manufacturers have asked for a “full blanket” indemnity in the supply deals but the government could not agree with such request. The vaccine makers should still maintain “good manufacturing practices” to ensure the protection of vaccine recipients, he said.

He noted that the government cannot fully waive immunity especially in case of malpractice and willful neglect in the vaccination. He insisted that the government has a duty to protect public safety and health.