Duque asks for patience amid delayed COVID-19 vaccine arrival, cites supply shortage in global market

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 22)— Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Monday appealed to the public for patience amid the delayed arrival of coronavirus vaccines in the country.

In the government’s Laging Handa briefing, Duque pointed to the global supply shortage of vaccines as the main reason behind the delay, but assured Filipinos that the products would be arriving soon.

Konting pasensya po ang aking pinapakiusap, umaapela po ako sa taumbayan,” Duque said. “Makakaasa kayo na darating at darating na po ang mga bakunang iyan. Pero dapat ipaliwanag ko din na ang pangunahing dahilan kung bakit wala pang bakuna ay talaga naman iyong global supply shortage,” he explained.

[Translation: I’m asking and appealing to the public for a little patience. You can expect the vaccines to arrive soon. But I would like to explain that the main reason why the vaccines have yet to arrive is really because of the global supply shortage.]

In a separate interview with CNN Philippines, Duque also cited the “inequitable access” to vaccines as another roadblock, citing a United Nations report that revealed around 130 countries have yet to receive a single shipment of the vaccines.

“So ‘yan talaga ang malaking problema natin (that’s our big problem)… global shortage of the supplies, inequitable access, vaccine nationalism in the first world countries that tend to corner the chunk of the vaccine supplies,” the health chief told The Source.

Duque’s pronouncement echoes the earlier appeal of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., who on Friday also apologized and asked for patience after the delay in the arrival of vaccines. Like his colleague in the task force, Galvez likewise noted the current conditions in the global market, saying the government doesn't have control on the supply chain.

Government officials previously announced that the first batch of vaccines to be supplied by the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility may arrive by the middle of February. But the delivery got delayed due to the absence of an indemnification deal, which Galvez later confirmed had already been submitted to the concerned manufacturers Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Aside from the products coming from COVAX, the country is also expected to receive vaccine doses from China’s Sinovac Biotech, which recently gained emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Officials earlier said the Sinovac doses were ready to be shipped anytime pending the EUA grant.