Duterte: Poor Filipinos first-takers of COVID-19 vaccine once available

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte said the beneficiaries of cash assistance from the government and the sick will be among the first to receive coronavirus vaccines once they become available in the market.

Duterte, who is pinning hopes on coronavirus vaccines developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firms, asked the public for patience, saying he hopes the situation would return to normal by December.

“I promise you, by the grace of God, I hope by December we will be back to normal," he said.

Those who will be given priority access to coronavirus vaccine include poor Filipinos and hospitalized patients.

“Ang mauna ‘yung mga walang-wala and of course, ‘yung mga nasa hospital ‘yung mga sick or dying. Ang una ‘yung mga tao sa listahan na tumatanggap ng assistance sa gobyerno,” Duterte said.

Second on the list of people who will receive free vaccine from the government are the middle-income Filipinos.

The chief executive said the police and the military—the “backbone” of Duterte’s administration—will be third in line.

“‘Yung mga upper income, magbili na lang kayo,” the chief executive said.

The government’s plan is to conduct the vaccination of 20 million people—or 18.5% of the country’s 108 million population. Finance Secretary said the government is allotting P20 billion for the plan to purchase at least 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Beijing on Wednesday said it would give priority access to the Philippines once it successfully develops a coronavirus vaccine after Duterte “made a plea” to Chinese president Xi Jinping to prioritize the country when providing a COVID-19 vaccine.

Chinese biopharmaceutical companies are responsible for three of the five vaccines that have moved into Phase 3 trials or large-scale testing on humans.

Military as implementing arm

Duterte, who has been criticized for his militarized response to a public health emergency such as COVID-19 pandemic, said he is assigning the Armed Forces of the Philippines to implement the immunization drive.

“There’s set-up, may task force. But implementing arm is military,” he said.

He later on said in his speech that nurses in “nearest police stations” may be tapped for the vaccination program.

Since Duterte declared a public health emergency over the country, there has been heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce quarantine procedures, prompting critics to voice concerns on the heavy-handed measures imposed by the government.

Duterte also tasked retired military generals such as Peace Process Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to lead the government's coronavirus response.

The coronavirus pandemic has so far sickened 89,374 people in the Philippines, with 1,983 deaths.

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 30, 2023 - 12:56pm

Pharma giants Sanofi and GSK said on July 29, 2020, that they have agreed to supply Britain with up to 60 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. The agreement covers a vaccine candidate developed by France's Sanofi in partnership with the UK's GSK and is subject to a "final contract."

This thread collects some of the major developments in the search for a vaccine to ease the new coronavirus pandemic. (Main photo by AFP/Joel Saget)

May 30, 2023 - 12:56pm

As negotiations towards a new pandemic treaty pick up pace, observers warn of watered-down efforts to ensure equitable access to the medical products needed to battle future Covid-like threats.

Shaken by the pandemic, the World Health Organization's 194 member states are negotiating an international accord aimed at ensuring countries are better equipped to deal with the next catastrophe, or even prevent it altogether.

The process is still in the early stages, with the aim of reaching an agreement by May 2024.

But critics warn that revisions being made to the preliminary negotiating text are weakening the language -- notably in a key area aimed at preventing the rampant inequity seen in access to vaccines and other medical products during the Covid pandemic.

"I think it is a real step backwards," Suerie Moon, co-director of the Global Health Centre at the Geneva Graduate Institute, told AFP. — AFP

April 20, 2023 - 8:03pm

Africa's first mRNA vaccine hub is ceremonially launched on Thursday to acclaim from the UN's global health chief, who hailed it as a historic shift to help poor countries gain access to life-saving jabs.

The facility was set up in the South African city of Cape Town in 2021 on the back of the success of revolutionary anti-Covid vaccines introduced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

"This precious project... will bring a paradigm shift in addressing the serious problem we faced, the equity problem, during the pandemic, so (that) it's not repeated again," World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a media briefing to mark the inauguration. — AFP

March 22, 2023 - 3:37pm

China has approved its first locally developed messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine against Covid-19, its manufacturer said Wednesday, months after the relaxation of strict Covid-zero regulations sparked a surge in cases.

The vaccine, developed by CSPC Pharmaceutical Group Ltd, has been approved for "emergency use" by Beijing's health regulator, the company said in a statement.

It showed high efficacy in a trial in which it was used as a booster shot for people who have been given other types of vaccines, the company added, without offering further details. — AFP

March 1, 2023 - 1:53pm

COVID-19 vaccine maker Novavax raises doubts about its ability to continue its business, announcing plans to cut spending after struggles in rolling out its coronavirus jab.

Shares of Novavax plummeted 25 percent in extended trading, after the company reported fourth-quarter earnings that missed analyst estimates.

While the firm should have enough money to fund operations, the situation is "subject to significant uncertainty," it says in a statement. — AFP

February 17, 2023 - 8:53am

The protection against Covid-19 from being previously infected lasts at least as long as that offered by vaccination, one of the largest studies conducted on the subject says.

Ten months after getting Covid, people still had an 88% lower risk of reinfection, hospitalisation and death, according to the study published in the Lancet journal.

That makes this natural immunity "at least as durable, if not more so" than two doses of Pfizer or Moderna's vaccines, the study says.

The authors nevertheless emphasized that their findings should not discourage vaccination, which remains the safest way to get immunity. — AFP

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