Duterte joins UN call for unity on vaccines
MANILA, Philippines — As nations scramble to secure their supply of limited resources, President Rodrigo Duterte urged other countries to cooperate with the United Nations in ensuring universal access to COVID-19 vaccines still under development.
Addressing the UN General Assembly virtually for the second time this year, Duterte called for unified action to address COVID 19 and said “collective initiatives in the UN and other multilateral frameworks are our best chance to defeat the pandemic.”
The President also urged other UN members not to let up in the fight against terrorism as the global health crisis has brought more threats to peace and security.
“When everyone needs the same limited resources, the compulsion to resort to a ‘zero-sum’ approach is amplified,” but the pandemic demands enhanced cooperation, he said.
“If any country is excluded by reason of poverty or strategic unimportance, this gross injustice will haunt the world for a long time,” he said. “We cannot let this happen. No one is safe until everyone is safe.”
He said the Philippines supports the global medical and scientific initiatives forged at the World Health Organization (WHO), and added that the country would do its part by contributing to the pooling of global resources and would help other countries without preconditions.
One of the WHO initiatives is the Solidarity Vaccine Trials, which will also be conducted in the Philippines.
But the trials, which were supposed to start in November, has again been postponed to January as the global health agency assessed candidate vaccines to be used, said physician and microbiologist Niña Gonzales-Gloriani, who heads the country’s vaccine expert panel.
Of the five candidate vaccines under consideration, Gloriani declined to identify the candidates but two of them are the “most promising” despite certain issues that have yet to be resolved.
“These [candidate vaccines] have been in our radar and studied by the vaccine expert panel so it won’t take us long. These are leading vaccines because they have to be in the advanced stage to be considered [for inclusion,” she told reporters on Friday.
But while the WHO pushed its search for a vaccine, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres decried countries that rejected facts about the coronavirus pandemic and ignored guidance from the WHO.
“From the start, the World Health Organization provided factual information and scientific guidance that should have been the basis for a coordinated global response,” Guterres said.
“Unfortunately, many of these recommendations were not followed. And in some situations, there was a rejection of facts and an ignoring of the guidance. And when countries go in their own direction, the virus goes in every direction,” he said. —WITH REPORTS FROM JOVIC YEE AND REUTERS
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