As more and more Filipinos are being inoculated to protect them from COVID-19, especially its emerging strains, it is timely to acknowledge the benefactor-countries that have extended their assistance: the United States, Japan, and China.
On July 16 and 17, the United States delivered a total of 3,240,850 one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines to the country. The shipment was provided directly by the US government to the Philippines through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility, a multilateral initiative to promote equitable access to vaccines.
Previously, the Philippines also received delivery of Japan’s donation of 3 million doses of AstraZeneca jabs.
China has also donated one million vaccine doses. Recall that Sinovac jabs were used during the initial rollout phase when the government was encountering difficulties in accessing vaccines.
The ties that bind the Philippines and the three donor countries have been instrumental in enabling the country to undertake the massive vaccination effort required to put jabs into the arms of at least 70 million Filipinos, the level of immunity deemed necessary to attain adequate community protection or herd immunity.
President Joe Biden has been hailed for spearheading efforts to enable less affluent countries like the Philippines to access critical vaccine supplies as he declared that the United States will be an “arsenal for vaccines”.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan affirms its strong ties with the Philippines, “a true friend closer than a brother.” Japan is the biggest provider of official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines, accounting for over 40 percent of aid received from foreign countries.
According to a US Embassy Manila report, total American assistance to the Philippines’ COVID response effort has reached $27.5 million or more than P1.38 billion covering five areas, namely: “support for medical treatment” including hospital beds, equipment and supplies; “boost testing capacity” including support for 100 laboratories and for increasing the Department of Health’s testing capacity to 30,000 tests per day; “strengthen supply chain management” in terms of facilitating the #ReliefAgad system of distributing cash assistance to 17.5 million beneficiaries of the Social Amelioration Program; and “strengthening risk communication” to propagate correct understanding of COVID to some 3 million people online.
China’s assistance package also includes emergency medical supplies consisting of 100 ventilators; 150,000 testing kits; 70,000 medical protective suits, 70,000 N95 medical masks, 1.3 million surgical mask and 70,000 medical protective goggles.
Credit must also be given to COVAX, the risk-sharing mechanism for global procurement and equitable distribution of vaccines. To date, the COVAX facility has delivered a total of 10,297,060 vaccine doses to the Philippines: 4,584,000 AstraZeneca; 3,240,850 J & J Janssen; and 3,472,210 Pfizer-BioNTech.
Indeed, multilateralism or inter-country collaboration that is “transparent, science-based and coordinated” goes a long way toward enabling equitable access to vaccines. In a recent ASEAN forum, the Philippines called on the WHO, IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization “to lead the cause in making vaccines a global public good.”