Duterte: 'Gross injustice' if low-income nations have no access to COVID-19 vaccine
President Rodrigo Duterte talks to the people after holding a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on November 30, 2020.
Presidential Photo/Karl Norman Alonzo

Duterte: 'Gross injustice' if low-income nations have no access to COVID-19 vaccine

Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - December 4, 2020 - 9:54am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his call for universal access to coronavirus vaccines, once available, as the Philippines scrambles to secure supplies of these critical products to help end one of Southeast Asia’s worst outbreaks.

In his second appearance at the United Nations General Assembly, Duterte said it would be a “gross injustice” if low-income nations would be left behind in gaining access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

“If any country is excluded by reason of poverty or strategic unimportance, this gross injustice will haunt the world for a long time,” Duterte said in a recorded message early Friday morning.

“We cannot let this happen. No one is safe unless everyone is safe,” he added.

The president also stressed that critical services and products must be made accessible to the most vulnerable and they should be given priority.

He affirmed the country’s commitment to mechanisms such as the COVAX Facility, which the Philippines joined. The COVAX facility aims to ensure fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

Duterte also called on UN member states to strengthen the capacity of their health systems as nations reopen economy.

RELATED: Duterte changes stance, OKs advance payments for COVID-19 vaccines

Race to securing vaccine supplies

Promising results from the coronavirus vaccine trials of drugmakers Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca were a welcome development as the world battles a disease that has killed more than 1.5 million people.

But with governments in predominantly wealthy countries reserving billions of doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines before these are even approved, many poor countries would have difficulty in accessing immunization.

The Philippines, through the efforts of around 30 private companies, has so far secured at least 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, which has an average efficacy of 70%. The first doses of vaccine are expected to arrive in May or June 2020 after local regulatory approval.

Aside from financial challenges, there are also logistical issues with the delivery and storage of these crucial goods.

To fast-track the local approval of COVID-19 vaccines, Duterte signed Tuesday an order giving the country’s Food and Drug Administration the power to issue emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. EUA would shorten the process of regulatory approval from the usual six months to as fast as 21 days.

The Philippines aims to vaccinate 60 to 70 million people against the disease in three to five years to achieve herd immunity.

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