China donates COVID-19 Vaccine for the Philippines
China donates COVID-19 vaccines for the Philippines to help the country recover quickly over the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Philippines received 600, 000 COVID-19 vaccines from China on February 28, 2021. The good news marked the country’s historic step in its fight against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The Southeast-Asian country is the last country to receive the critical doses despite having the second-highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths in the hard-hit region.
The 600,000 doses of the China-based Sinovac Biotech vaccines arrived in the capital via a Chinese military transport aircraft.
President Rodrigo Duterte and top Cabinet officials expressed relief and thanked Beijing for the vaccine. In a televised ceremony, Pres. Duterte stated the COVID-19 vaccines should be treated as a global public good. He also emphasized that it must be available to all, rich and poor alike. Moreover, the leader pointed out that the battle over the COVID-19 pandemic is global and warned Filipinos that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
“No winter lasts forever”
Besides the Philippines, Huang Xilian, China’s ambassador to the Philippines, also said that Asia’s Red Dragon also exported vaccines to 27 countries despite its own domestic needs. Additionally, the benevolent ambassador added “no winter lasts forever” when China and other countries help each other in solidarity.
As part of the country’s national economic recovery plan, vaccinations initially of health workers and top officials led by the health secretary began on March 1.
Aside from the donated 600, 000 COVID-19 vaccines, the government also has 25 million doses separate order from the China-based company.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said there will be a delay in the initial 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine due to supply problems.
148 million doses from Western and Asian Companies
The first deliveries are a small fraction of at least 148 million doses the government has been negotiating to secure from Western and Asian companies to vaccinate about 70 million Filipinos for free in a massive campaign. The Philippine government expects the bulk of the vaccine shipments to arrive later this year in addition to the 600, 000 COVID-19 vaccines from Sinovac.
The Philippines has reported over 576,000 infections, including 12,318 deaths. The said figure incurs the second-highest totals in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. Lockdowns and quarantine restrictions have set back Manila’s economy in one of the worst recessions in the region and sparked unemployment and hunger.
Recently, Duterte’s administration became the subject of criticism for lagging behind most other Southeast-Asian countries in securing the vaccines. Other countries that received global criticisms were poorer ones like Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos.
“No vaccine, no stay here”
In one interview, the tough-talking Duterte exclaimed about the inequality of the vaccine distribution between rich and poor countries. He said wealthy Western countries have cornered massive doses for their citizens, leaving poorer nations scrambling for the rest. In a sign of desperation, the president said last December that he would abrogate a key security pact with the United States if it could not provide at least 20 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. If passed to law, American troops can no longer conduct war exercises in the Philippines.
“No vaccine, no stay here,” Duterte said then.
The 600, 000 COVID-19 vaccine delivery experienced delay because of the absence of authorization from Manila’s Food and Drug Administration. Sinovac got the authorization last March 1.
The Philippine government is confident that the 600, 000 COVID-19 vaccines will greatly help the Filipino medical community. In his initial plans, Pres. Duterte assured the medical front liners will receive the first shot of the vaccines.
The Dengvaxia Scare in 2017
On the other hand, Western pharmaceutical companies also wanted the Philippines to take responsibility for the use of the vaccine. This includes lawsuits and demands for indemnity arising from possible adverse side effects from the vaccine.
Aside from supply problems, there have been concerns over the vaccine’s safety in recent years. To note, the pharmaceutical giant Sanofi became involved in the Dengvaxia mess in 2017. Apparently, the pharmaceutical giant’s Dengvaxia vaccine caused a scare among Filipinos after the inoculation caused deaths among school children. The said scandal has prompted the Duterte administration to stop a massive immunization drive against dengue in the country.
Want to read more? You might want to check about the Things You Need to know about Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine in 2021.