Strong words. But forthright.
When President Rodrigo Duterte addressed the high-level general debate of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly this week, we found his message spot-on, particularly on the coronavirus vaccines.
In that speech, his final opportunity to address the body before his six-year term ends on June 30, 2022, the 76-year-old head of state hit the nail right on the head, while painting a “bleak” analysis of the vaccine supply across the continents.
We totally agree with him, particularly when he said: “The picture is bleak – it is a man-made drought of vaccines ravaging the poor countries.
“Rich countries hoard life-saving vaccines while poor nations wait for trickles. They now talk of booster shots while developing countries consider half doses just to get by.”
A very sad, if tragic, scenario indeed.
With a reputation for getting at the guts of a problem, Duterte did not pull his diplomatic punches when he said this practice must be condemned.
Let’s read his lips: “This is shocking beyond belief and must be condemned for what it is, a selfish act that can neither be justified rationally nor morally.”
As the Filipino leader was saying this, his country – population 110 million-plus – was reporting 19,201 new infections on average each day, 90 percent of the peak – the highest daily average as of September 15.
A quick view of the updated data suggests there have been 2,417,419 infections and 37,228 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the archipelago republic since the pandemic began here in mid-March 2020.
We quote President Duterte: “We recognize that only inclusive multilateralism can deliver the global public goods we need. And we believe that fairness, equality, and respect should always be the basis of our engagement with one another.
“Only with these can we correct the injustices that doom the downtrodden all over the world to a life of indignity, and, for the thousands during the pandemic, certain death.”
We agree with the President that to crush the pandemic, the virus must be defeated everywhere, and verily vaccines are the “key to achieving this.”
The country, which began its mass inoculation program against COVID-19 last March, has limited resources to buy the foreign-made jabs, with much of its vaccine supply from donations via the COVAX facility.
This week, manufacturers in the United States, United Kingdom, and China have started sending steadier supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines, coinciding with an announcement the Philippines plans vaccine manufacturing operations by the second or third quarter of next year.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, quoting the Board of Investments, told a Generics Summit Webinar this week seven companies expressed interest to manufacture vaccines locally. Of the seven companies, Lopez said four companies equivalent to three projects were progressing.
National Task Force against COVID 19 Chief Implementer and vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. himself said: “By the end of October, we will reach more or less 100 million doses delivered to the Philippines.”
Galvez said committed donations from the US-COVAX donation and GAVI (Vaccine Alliance) facility had started to stabilize.
At present, the Philippines has so far received a total of 64,942,000 doses. Of this supply, 13,041,410 doses were delivered this month.
The vaccine czar said that an additional 22 million doses were expected to arrive by the end of September or in the first week of October.
These shipments include three to five million doses of procured Moderna vaccines and nearly 13 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech shots procured by the national government and donated supplies coming from the US-COVAX donation.
As of Sept. 20, the country has received 36 million doses of Sinovac, 9.59 million doses of Astrazeneca, 9.17 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, 5.25 million doses of Moderna, 3.24 million of Johnson & Johnson, 1.1 million doses of Sinopharm, and 570,000 doses of Sputnik V.
The majority of these doses or 61.91 percent were procured by the national government, 24.74 percent were donated through the COVAX facility, 7.74 percent were purchased by the private sector and local government units, and 5.60 percent were donated by a partner and bilateral nations.
Out of the 187.6 million doses secured by the Philippines from various manufacturers and sources for this year, a total of 129 million doses of COVID 19 vaccines are procured orders.
The procured doses from Moderna were the result of pooled orders of the national government and private sector.
We pray for the day when rich nations will have their heartbeats and pit-a-patting minds for the poor members of the international community.