Claiming that there is “no vaccine diplomacy except in small amounts,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsinn Jr. said on Saturday that he will appeal to countries with a surplus of COVID-19 vaccines so the Philippines can get its hands on more doses.
The term vaccine diplomacy refers to how countries are using their jabs to strengthen regional ties, enhance their power, and improve their global status. Purportedly, countries that donate COVID-19 vaccines to less developed nations do so with the intent of improving ties.
He posted on Twitter that he will “appeal (and) not insult” to “the smart who ordered early and might have more than they need.”
“We needed this; we got it. No more excuses? Doesn’t depend entirely on us. Not supplies nor availability. Countries w/ vast manufacturing capability aren’t getting what they need,” Locsin said in reaction to President Duterte’s signing of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021.
The measure authorizes the national government, local government units, and the private sector to procure COVID-19 vaccines through the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) and the Department of Health (DOH).
It also set up a P500-million indemnity fund to compensate individuals vaccinated against the virus in case of death or for the treatment of possible adverse effects from the vaccine.
Locsin said the DFA was part of the negotiations that will send 17 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to the country. That batch, brokered by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. and Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, will be for LGUs and the business sector.
The DFA chief said the country is trying to procure AstraZeneca vaccines from its Thailand manufacturer, “but each license or sublicensee has a region to cover” such as the availability of five million doses from South Korea’s COVAX, a facility introduced by the United Nations to make safe vaccines accessible to lower-income economies.
But Locsin warned that the Philippines must not only work to purchase these vaccines, it must also “be ready to receive the supply and use it.”
“Should it rot and be found expired later—hell to pay from public. Cannot afford one fuck up. The world will rightly ignore us thereafter. Meanwhile, we’ve survived this long. All we need is a timeline. For hope and to prepare.”
He also agreed with a Twitter user who reposted a news article that quoted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chief Dr. Anthony Fauci to take whatever COVID-19 vaccine is available.
“There you go, and keep up the masking, face shielding, showering daily/washing hands at every turn. We have come this far, we can wait safely for the vaccines to finally arrive by doing exactly what we’ve been doing. Only downside in lockdown is increasing jobless and hunger,” Locsin said.
“When the first start to die of hunger—it happened in Negros in last years of martial law—there will be hell to pay and if you think security forces can keep hungry people in line, let alone let them take over, then you are taking drugs,” he added.
The Philippines will welcome on Sunday, Feb. 28, the arrival of 600,000 doses of China’s Sinovac vaccines.