News Release

President Duterte: Filipinos must remain cautious as country awaits COVID-19 vaccine

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) core members prior to his talk to the people at the Malacañang Golf (Malago) Clubhouse in Malacañang Park, Manila on February 24, 2021. KARL ALONZO/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has expressed dismay Wednesday over the inability of poor and developing countries get equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, asking the public not to lower its guard against the coronavirus.

President Duterte, in his previous pronouncements in global fora, called for fair access to COVID-19 vaccines as countries race to inoculate their populations against the highly contagious coronavirus.

For instance, during his virtual address to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit last year, he urged member economies to ensure the unimpeded flow of medical supplies and technologies, especially COVID-19 vaccines.

To defeat the coronavirus, member economies must strengthen partnerships to make vaccines a global public good, he said.

“Seventy-five, sitenta’y singko porsyento, nandiyan lang sa sampu na… Ang iba, tayo, pati nga tayo wala,” the President said in a public address Wednesday, expressing dismay over the disparity in supply.

While the Philippines awaits vaccine deliveries, the President said the country must fortify its defenses. He wants local government units (LGUs) to play a crucial role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 particularly through wide use of face masks.

President Duterte hopes governors, mayors, and barangay officials to carry out strict mask mandate, appealing to them to shell out money to give masks for free especially to the poor.

“The provincial government and the municipal governments and the city governments, I require you to buy and give it for free,” he said.

The government expects to receive 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government. It plans to begin mass inoculation as soon as it gets the initial vaccine deliveries.

Aside from the Chinese donation, the government is also awaiting the delivery of 3.5 million doses of vaccines manufactured by AstraZeneca and Pfizer. It was arranged through the COVAX Facility, a global alliance that seeks to help poor countries vaccinate their populations.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., the country’s vaccine czar and chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19, reported that the Philippines will receive a total of 5.1 million vaccine doses in the first quarter of this year.

Some 24.1 million doses, coming from COVAX and government procurements, will also be delivered to the Philippines in the second quarter, he said. PND