President Rodrigo Duterte called for an end to “vaccine nationalism” during an emergency meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders late Friday evening, saying unequitable access to the life-saving jabs has turned the COVID-19 pandemic into an “unforgiving race to immunity.”
“We are aware that more than 80 percent of COVID-19 vaccines have gone to rich countries, leaving the rest of us in the developing world with so little to get by. This great imbalance in vaccine access needs to be rectified. Vaccine nationalism must end,” Duterte said in his intervention.
He urged APEC economies to resist imposing barriers to the free flow of vaccines and related essential products, and to instead stabilize vaccine prices to make them more affordable for developing countries.
“The Philippines is concerned with the increasing North-South divide between the ‘vaccine-haves’ and the ‘have-nots,’” he said.
“Comprehensive recovery remains elusive. Our peoples continue to suffer. We need bold, collaborative responses to get us back on the path of growth and prosperity,” Duterte added.
3.1 million jabs arrive
The country on Saturday welcomed more than 3.1 million COVID-19 doses – 1.5 million Sinovac jabs procured by the government and 1.6 million J&J single-shot vaccines donated by the US government through the COVAX Facility.
The first batch of J&J doses arrived Friday, rounding up the 3.2 million jabs that Washington donated to Manila through the UN-led vaccine sharing platform.
The latest deliveries pushed the country’s vaccine stockpile to more than 27 million.
As of Thursday, more than 14 million doses of different COVID-19 vaccine brands have been administered since the rollout started March 1. A little over 4 million individuals have received two doses and are now fully vaccinated.
Focus on seniors, persons with comorbidities
The Department of Health said authorities must focus on getting high-risk persons inoculated first before moving on to the next vaccination category.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said only 13 percent of senior citizens have been vaccinated, while 15 percent of those vaccinated are persons with comorbidities.
“We need to add to those numbers. We need to reach at least 50 percent,” she Vergeire said.
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