Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. stressed that it was not hesitancy but the low global supply of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines that caused the Philippines to only vaccinate less than a quarter of its qualified population as of date.
Locsin made the statement during his participation at the International Forum on COVID-19 Vaccine Cooperation on August 5.
In his speech, posted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on its YouTube channel on Friday, August 6, Locsin said the rate of vaccination was much higher in rich countries compared to poor and developing ones.
"Four billion doses have been administered worldwide. But the rate of vaccination is 30x more in countries with the highest incomes than in countries with the lowest," he said.
"In the Philippines, we have administered only 20 million doses for a population of more than 90 million qualified to take. We know the reason is not because we have many anti-vaxxers. We just don’t have enough vaccines," he added.
He said vaccines that arrived in the country were immediately given to a waiting population, and then the country would have to wait until the next supply arrives while the virus continued to spread.
Despite this, Locsin said even if the Philippines was doing better than other countries, it was no cause for celebration but rather, concern.
"We feel every life lost, every orphan made, every family shattered, every job lost anywhere — personally," he said.
"Filipinos are raised to be people for others more than for themselves. Why my country produces more, better, and more caring healthcare workers," he added.
Locsin reiterated President Duterte's call that vaccines should be considered a global public good and that there should equitable, timely, and affordable access to them.
"Access to COVID-19 vaccines must not be denied or withheld. It should be made available to all, rich and poor countries alike," he said.
The country's top diplomat likewise pointed out that the Philippines have contributed US$1,100,000 to the COVAX Facility global initiative.
As of August 4, a total of 22,488,705 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered nationwide, in which 10,282,152 individuals have been fully vaccinated, while 12,206,553 have received their first dose.