Duterte says vaccine shortage, not gov't response, is PH's main problem

Published May 6, 2021, 2:09 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

The country is facing a problem on the limited available supply of coronavirus vaccines; it is not the government’s pandemic response, that is at issue, President Duterte declared Wednesday.

An essential frontliner gets a coronavirus shot at a vaccination hub in Taguig City on May 4, 2021 (Ali Vicoy/ Manila Bulletin)

In a televised address Wednesday, the President said the government managed to secure some supplies but the stocks are arriving “in trickles” due to the global shortage.

“Itong ating problema sa Pilipinas, kulang ang bakuna. Nagbibili tayo kung saan-saan at dumadating lang ngayon pakaunti-kaunti (The problem in the Philippines is the shortage of vaccines. We are buying anywhere and they are arriving in small quantities),” he said.

“Ang problema natin bakuna hindi (our problem is the vaccine, not) that we are not doing anything or that we are not doing it properly,” he added.

So far, the country has received over 4 million of coronavirus vaccines, mostly procured from China. Vaccine supplies included the AstraZeneca doses from the World Health Organization-led COVAX Facility as well as Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute.

More than 2 million doses have been administered since the government’s inoculation program began last March. The government’s goal is to inoculate 70 million adult Filipinos to attain herd immunity this year. More vaccine supplies, including Pfizer and AstraZeneca, are expected to arrive this month, according to vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr.

In his taped speech, Duterte admitted that the country could not have started the vaccination drive if China did not donate coronavirus vaccines. Beijing earlier donated 1 million doses of Sinovac vaccines to the Philippines.

“Were it not for, well the donation of China, wala tayo, zero,” the President said.

“We started with nothing and we could continue preventing sickness, hospitalization, and everything kung may bakuna na tayo at na-distribute na natin sa lahat ng corners ng Pilipinas at nabakunahan na ang tao (if we have vaccines and distribute them to all corners of the Philippines and vaccinate people) then there is nothing to talk about herd [immunity] kung may lahat nandiyan na (if everything is here),he said.

He said the government managed to catch up with vaccine procurement, but admitted nobody expected the pandemic to hit the world.Even countries like the United States and Brazil were “suffering” from the same problem of coronavirus cases, he said.

As of May 5, the country has recorded over a million coronavirus cases, including 62,713 active cases and 17,800 deaths.

In the face of the coronavirus emergency, the President lauded the innovation of Filipinos in building modular hospitals to augment the country’s health care capacity. He conceded the pandemic could not be resolved overnight, so he urged anew the public to observe health protocols, particularly in properly wearing masks, to slow down the spread of the transmission.

“Alam mo ginagawa nang lahat ng… Anong gusto ninyo? (You know everything is being done. What do you want?) What do you think just a silver bullet and tomorrow the pandemic is gone?)” he said.

He also assured the nation that the government would not lie about the country’s coronavirus situation, including statistics on the vaccination campaign.