Accessing life-saving vaccination remains a challenge

Published June 1, 2021, 12:07 AM

by Former Senator Atty. Joey D. Lina

Finding Answers

Former Senator
Atty. Joey Lina

To show the magnitude of disproportion in access to the first COVID-19 vaccines being deployed at the start of 2021, a stark contrast was portrayed.

“More than 39 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in at least 49 higher-income countries. Just 25 doses have been given in one lowest-income country. Not 25 million; not 25 thousand; just 25,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus lamented.

“I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure – and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries,” Ghebreyesus warned in his Jan. 18 remarks at the 148th session of the WHO executive board.

His said that the actions of some countries jumping to the front of the queue, hoarding vaccines, driving up prices “will only prolong the pandemic, the restrictions needed to contain it, and human and economic suffering.”

The scramble for life-saving vaccines by rich nations began almost immediately after major pharmaceutical companies confirmed the efficacy rate of their vaccines, The world’s richest G7 industrialized nations and other developed countries gobbled up at least 3.1 billion doses of vaccines that were yet in the process of manufacture.

More than four months since the WHO chief issued his warning, huge disparities still remain in vaccine deployment across the world with more than a billion doses already administered. While some countries have fully vaccinated large portions of their population, poor countries are lagging behind. Israel, for instance, had fully vaccinated 59 percent of its population, while the Philippines had just around 1 percent of the population fully vaccinated so far. And in some countries in Africa, not one has been vaccinated yet.

The magnitude of disproportion in the deployment of vaccines across the world explains why the Philippines is having a difficult time in accessing the life-saving vaccines.

But listening to our country’s vaccine czar, Gen. Charlie Galvez, who was guest in my Teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan last Sunday, there appears to be much hope in the horizon. Millions more of vaccine doses will be arriving in the country starting this June. He said the Philippines is still on track to achieve the ultimate goal of herd immunity by the end of this year.

Large portions of incoming vaccine deliveries would be coming from the WHO-administered COVAX, the worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to vaccines. To avert the “catastrophic moral failure,” the WHO chief had called on rich countries to share their own doses with COVAX, “especially once they have vaccinated their own health workers and older populations, so that other countries can do the same.”

US President Joe Biden recently announced that their excess vaccine stocks would be turned over to COVAX. Philippine Ambassador to the US Babes Romualdez said the US “committed $4 billion for the COVAX Facility along with a pledge to donate 80 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for countries that badly need them.” He added that he was informed by the White House that the Philippines will be among the countries to receive the first batch of deliveries.

So despite all the difficulties facing our country in accessing life-saving vaccines that are badly needed to bring about a sense of relief and pave the way to economic recovery, there is much hope that with the hard work of the likes of Gen. Galvez and Ambassador Romualdez, our country would finally see better times ahead.

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