Duterte at COVAX summit: Vaccine access imbalance 'must be corrected'

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte called on world leaders to commit to the COVAX global facility and correct the “imbalance” in access to coronavirus vaccines across countries. 

Duterte made the statement on Wednesday night, June 2, in a short address at the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment One World Protected Summit, where he announced the Philippines’ donation of $1 million to the initiative. 

“To this day, access has not been universal,” Duterte said, quoting figures that over 80% of available vaccines have gone to richer countries while less than 1% had gone to poorer countries. 

“This imbalance must be corrected or there will be no real and inclusive global recovery to speak of,” he said.

The event, hosted by Japan, aimed to raise an additional $2 billion to speed up access to 1.8 billion vaccine doses for low income countries. 

The COVAX global facility – which aims to ensure poor countries have access to vaccines – is facing supply and financing problems that hamper its target to distribute two billion doses to developing countries, including the Philippines, in 2021. 

The Philippines expects to receive about 44 million vaccines, enough to cover some 15% to 20% of the country’s population. So far, about 2.5 million AstraZeneca doses and 193,050 Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine doses were delivered to the country as of May, while 2.2 million more doses of Pfizer's vaccine is expected in June.

Along with the Philippines, beneficiary countries of the COVAX initiative have experienced delivery delays as global supply remained erratic. COVAX earlier said it projected the continued COVID-19 surge in India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, to lead to a shortfall of 190 million doses by the end of June. 

COVAX is an initiative co-led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.