‘Something has gone wrong’: Duterte sounds alarm over ‘ruckus’ on global purchase of COVID-19 vaccines

Published March 30, 2021, 10:31 AM

by Genalyn Kabiling

A serious “ruckus” on the global acquisition of coronavirus vaccines has erupted that may threaten the supply for poor nations.


In a televised address Monday, President Duterte has raised the alarm after some countries allegedly “shanghaied” the vaccine supply. He refused to name the countries involved but claimed these nations were fighting over the world’s limited vaccine supply.

“Something has gone wrong. In most of the countries, they are — they shanghaied — iyong shanghaied ‘yong parang kinuha na nila na sa kanilang gobyerno at ewan ko (they shanghaied the supply or their governments got the supply. I don’t know but) there’s a ruckus now somewhere,” Duterte said in his remarks aired on state television.

“We are not allowed to mention the name of the countries but may — there’s something… There’s a ruckus going on and the fight for COVID possession is ongoing. It’s a very serious one,” said Duterte, who previously resented that rich nations have cornered most of the world’s limited supply of coronavirus vaccines.

Duterte made the latest statement to justify his decision to allow private companies to procure coronavirus vaccines “at will” to boost the country’s stocks and hasten the immunization drive. The vaccine supply secured by the government so far remained limited, according to the President.

The country’s vaccine stocks got a boost from Monday’s arrival of 1 million doses of CoronaVac vaccines bought by the government. The country earlier received 1.125 million vaccine doses, mostly donated by China and the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility, that allowed the government to kick off the vaccine drive early March. Under the government’s program, health workers, followed by senior citizens, those with comorbidity, and essential workers, will be given priority access to the vaccines.

According to the President, the country’s next delivery will be an additional 2 million vaccine doses. “Pero wala pang siguro ‘yan (But that’s not yet a certainty),” he said.

Duterte admitted that he could not identify the countries scrambling for the vaccines “because I was warned not to mention the names.” With these nations fighting over the supply, he admitted that the access to vaccine supply has become “unfair.”

“Nag-aagawan sila ngayon at ang sabi ko hinold (hold) ang ano, hinold. Now, dapat sabihin ‘yan kasi para malaman rin natin na how unfair it is really, especially if we are on the side of the poor na ‘yong ma-hold ‘yong bakuna (They are fighting over the supply now and I said they’re holding it. Now, that must be told so we will know how unfair it is really, especially we are on the side of the poor if the vaccines are held by a few),” he said.

To increase the country’s vaccine supply, Duterte said he has ordered vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. to let the private sector pursue their own procurement of the preventive drugs.

“I have ordered Secretary Galvez to sign any and all documents that would allow the private sector to import at will. Maski magkano o ilan ang gusto nilang ipasok okay sa akin (No matter the amount they want to bring in, that’s okay with me),” he said.

Last January, the President admitted that the country was at the end of the line of countries trying to procure coronavirus vaccines as wealthy countries have obtained most of the supplies. A month later, Duterte said 75 percent of the global supply of the vaccines have been secured by at least 10 countries, including the United States and Canada.