Fil-Ams lobby US gov't to expedite Moderna vaccine shipment to PH

Filipino Americans have launched a campaign to lobby the United States to speed up shipments of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines by May.

Louella Cabalona, president of the Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLpro), told Rappler in a phone interview on Tuesday, April 27 (Wednesday, April 28 in Manila), that they wanted to mobilize Filipino immigrants and first generation Filipino Americans to campaign to make sure the Philippines gets more vaccines. 

“They [Fil-Ams] are empowered to make change,” Cabalona said.

The group's campaign page said they are asking for 3 million out of the 20 million total doses "ordered and paid for" by the Philippines to be distributed in May instead of the current timeline of June to July.

They are urging the estimated 5 million Filipinos in the United States to write to President Joe Biden, cabinet officials, and lawmakers to pressure them to help the Philippines get more vaccines.

There are also at least 300,000 documented Americans living in the Philippines.

“We wanted it to be a bigger movement than just us sending an email. We wanted to be sure to get the vaccines by providing facts and info and wrap it in a campaign to encourage more people to do so.,” Cabalona said. 

According to FYLpro’s campaign tool kit, they want to write to President Joe Biden, acting USAID administrator Gloria Steele, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and their states' respective senators and congressional representatives.

The Philippines is currently experiencing a vaccine shortage, with several local government units stopping their program due to lack of supply.

Only Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines have been rolled out so far in the Philippines.

They also launched a social media campaign using the hashtags #ModernaVax2, #3millionToStart, #AccelerateAccess, #ShotsSoonerSavesLives, #PhilippinesStrong.

In addition to the Moderna jabs, the Philippines is also negotiating with the United States and United Kingdom for 6 million more doses of AstraZeneca from those countries' excess stockpiles.

The US has been criticized for hoarding vaccines resulting in inadequate supplies for poorer countries.

According to a report in the Washington Post published on April 15, the US could end up with 300 million excess doses by July.

This is why many Fil-Ams feel it is important for them to show solidarity with their motherland by helping the Philippines get more vaccine doses even if they do not – or no longer – live there.

“Right now, campaigning is the clearest way we can do it. Why we should do it is simply because the country needs it," Cabalona said.

“What I have been saying [is] the economy has tanked because of COVID-19, the cases-to-population ratio is huge, and we are all the least vaccinated population among the ASEAN countries. Anything we can do to drive more vaccines, we will do it," she added.  – Rappler.com

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.

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