EDITORIAL - Race for a vaccine
EDITORIAL - Race for a vaccine
(The Philippine Star) - September 22, 2020 - 12:00am

From the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the battle cry was healing as one. The message applies not only to just one city or country, but to the entire world. Just one COVID-19 hotspot on the planet can put the rest at risk.

With healing as one in mind, the World Health Organization is mobilizing governments and the private sector for a coordinated rollout of vaccines for coronavirus disease 2019. There’s a gap, however, between best intentions and action. Warnings have been aired against “vaccine nationalism” – with governments holding vaccines in reserve for their citizens.

Such behavior is not unexpected: governments serve their own people first, and priority in this crisis naturally goes to their own. Still, it is worrisome that rich countries accounting for just 13 percent of the global population have reportedly cornered about half of the vaccines that are in the advanced third phase of clinical trials – meaning the vaccines can be out later this year, with the commercial distribution seen in the first quarter of 2021.

Countries such as the Philippines, with limited resources and with no local program for vaccine development, will be unable to compete. President Duterte and the Department of Health have pointed out that private pharmaceutical companies with vaccines in advanced stages of development are demanding advance payment or reservation fees for their products. Philippine procurement laws, however, prohibit such fund disbursements.

The government had announced plans to provide free COVID immunization to an estimated 20 million of the poorest Filipinos as soon as a vaccine becomes available. The recipients will just have to put their faith in whatever vaccine the government can obtain quickest. The government has promised that only vaccines vetted by the WHO will be administered in the Philippines.

International bodies will have to step into this scramble, to ensure the timely and equitable distribution of COVID vaccines across the globe. This pandemic has highlighted the importance of healing as one. In a globalized environment, this is true whether at the community or national level or in the international arena. In immunizing against COVID, no country must be left behind.

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