Dominguez joins call for rich countries to share excess vaccines
MANILA, Philippines—President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief economic manager on Wednesday (April 14) joined calls for rich countries with excess coronavirus vaccines in their stockpiles to share these with poorer nations as supply runs short because of resurgent infections.
“The Philippines strongly supports the statement of Mr. David Malpass, former US undersecretary of the Treasury for international affairs and now the World Bank president, who underscored the importance of releasing vaccines from countries with excess supplies as soon as possible,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said at an online forum with Filipino and American businessmen.
At his meeting last Monday (April 12) with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Malpass pointed to the coronavirus vaccine acquisition and deployment challenges being faced by developing countries, even as more affluent nations had hoarded doses to cover double or triple their populations.
Some vaccine producers, like India, had also halted exports to contain their own spike in COVID-19 cases said to be caused by more contagious new virus variants.
Notwithstanding the global supply bottlenecks, Dominguez said the Philippines was “fully rolling out” its nationwide vaccination program aimed at inoculating all 70 million Filipino adults by end of 2021.
“We have arranged for the delivery of more than 140 million doses of vaccines this year. About 15 percent will be delivered in the first half of this year and 85 percent in the second half,” Dominguez said.
The Philippines had set aside $1.7 billion in funds for procurement, logistics and rollout of vaccines, of which the bulk, worth $1.2 billion, came from loans extended by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
“We chose this financing strategy because we want to assure the public of two things: First, that the vaccines we are buying are internationally accepted, and have passed the stringent criteria for safety and effectiveness. Second, that the vaccine procurement is totally transparent,” Dominguez said. The multilateral lenders will directly pay suppliers.
“The trilateral cooperation among the three multilateral banks in support of the Philippines’ vaccination program is a first in the Asean region,” Dominguez added.
At the same forum, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) acting administrator Gloria Steele said a fresh $3.5-million (P170-million) grant to the Philippines will support the country’s mass vaccination through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility for middle- and low-income countries.
In a statement, the US Embassy in Manila said this financing to the Department of Health (DOH), which implements the vaccination program, “will support the Philippines in strengthening the vaccine supply chain, monitoring vaccine safety, and delivering effective communication campaigns to address vaccine hesitancy.”
“This assistance will also support local government units (LGUs) as they plan for, track, and administer vaccines,” the embassy added.
To date, the US had provided to the Philippines a total of $27 million (about P1.3 billion) in financing assistance for pandemic response.
“In addition, the White House recently announced a $4-billion commitment to support the COVAX facility, a global initiative to support early vaccine access for 92 countries, including the Philippines,” the US Embassy said.
“An initial $2-billion contribution, provided through USAID, is supporting the purchase and delivery of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. Through the COVAX effort—of which the United States is the largest donor, the Philippines will receive enough vaccines to immunize at least 20 percent of its population by the end of 2021,” the embassy added.
Steele said that on top of USAID’s assistance to the Philippines’ health response, the agency was also working with the Department of Education (DepEd) “in order to minimize the negative impact of the pandemic on the education system.”
“And in the economic sector, we are collaborating with the Philippine government and the private sector to foster broader economic competitiveness and address the remaining constraints to growth,” Steele added.
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