Amid shortage in global supply, Philippines calls on international community to provide equitable access to anti-COVID vaccines

Photo by National Task Force against COVID-19.

The Philippine government is leading the clarion call for the international community to band together in the spirit of solidarity and ensure that all nations obtain equal access to life-saving anti-COVID vaccines.

Speaking during the United Nations’ Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Special Ministerial Meeting dubbed “A Vaccine for All,” on Friday, April 16, National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Sec. Carlito G. Galvez remarked “that #OnlyTogether can we end this pandemic especially now that we have begun to have the scientific capacity to do so.”

“The Philippines remains resolute in championing a policy of ensuring universal, fair, equitable, and timely access to COVID-19 vaccines as long-term solutions to building back better, amid the emergence of new variants and the global scarcity that has been challenging vaccine rollouts in some countries,” Galvez said.

“The Philippines calls on the international community to reinforce our greater global solidarities and uphold our collective commitment; and to further intensify its cooperation to address COVID-19’s multidimensional challenges,” he added.

In a strongly-worded statement addressed to leaders across the globe, Galvez said that the Philippines shares the concern of the UN Secretary General on the “unfortunate state” in which vaccination programs are being done around the world, as he took a swipe at those who may be responsible for the vaccine shortfall.

“Hoarding the limited vaccines does not serve anyone’s interests and only hurts everyone and the global response. Similar transgressions run contrary to solidarities reached multilaterally that emphasized the importance of collective action,” he said.

Galvez had previously lamented how rich nations have managed to secure around 80 percent of the world’s total vaccine supply, leaving less developed countries to scramble for the remaining supply.

The situation has also been compounded by the production and logistical challenges being confronted by vaccine makers, who have been having difficulty in fulfilling the commitments they have made to countries.

As a strategy to address this concern, the Philippine government has developed a vaccine portfolio wherein it is negotiating simultaneously with several vaccine makers in order to ensure a steady and secure supply of anti-COVID vaccines.

According to Galvez, nations had already reached a global consensus during the UNGA Special Session on COVID-19 held in December 2020 that “anti-COVID-vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics especially those developed using public funds and collaborative efforts, are global public goods that must be made accessible and affordable for all.”

“The Philippines fully supports and commits to this, as much as it fully aligns with the UN Secretary-General’s call for a Global Vaccination Plan so that vaccines reach every developing and least developed country without any further delay,” he said.

This is the reason, Galvez pointed out, why the Philippines has pledged US$100,000 to the World Health Organization, as well as to the COVAX Facility/COVAX Advance Market Commitment and the ASEAN COVID-19 Response despite the challenges it continues to confront in the implementation of its national vaccine program.

Meanwhile, the Vaccine Czar called on UN member-nations to include the most vulnerable sectors in the implementation of their COVID-19 response measures, as a failure to do so could largely affect their post-pandemic efforts.

“The Philippines calls on Member States to include women and migrant workers, especially those working in the frontlines of the pandemic response, and to include them in the national immunization strategies of all governments,” Galvez said.

“Women and migrants are disproportionately exposed to the health risks posed by the pandemic, yet they play critical roles in weathering the crisis,” he added.

Galvez likewise urged nations “to address the urgent needs of low-and middle-income countries,” as well as increase funding support for multilateral initiatives such as COVAX to allow the facility to achieve its target of delivering 2 billion vaccine doses to all countries by the end of 2021.

He recalled the statement made by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, wherein he cautioned that “if any country is excluded by reason of poverty or strategic unimportance, this gross injustice will haunt the world for a long time and will completely discredit the values upon which the United Nations was founded.”

“May no further injustice haunt us, as we continue the global fight towards ending this pandemic,” Galvez concluded.

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