The United Kingdom was first, followed by the United States and Canada, in rolling out massive anti-COVID vaccination for its citizens.
We don’t envy these three countries because they are the richest in the world and they deserve to get priority for the vaccine, specifically since the Pfizer vaccine is produced in the U.S.
In the region, Indonesia has already received its first shipment of 1.2 million doses of the vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. making Indonesia the first country in Southeast Asia to start its aggressive response to the pandemic.
What about us? When can we get the vaccine?
Malacañang has insisted that negotiations for the purchase of China-made Sinovac are ongoing. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that there is a global scramble for the COVID-19 vaccines being developed by several pharmaceutical companies.
The Philippines plans to acquire 25 million doses of Sinovac by the first quarter of 2021. Sinovac costs $60 (P3,000) for the two-dose regimen. Pfizer’s vaccine, which the government is also negotiating to get, costs $39 (P1,950) for two doses. The AstraZeneca vaccine, which the private sector will purchase, costs $10 (P500) for two doses.
Sadly, officials in the Duterte government are saying different things on the vaccine. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the Philippines was supposed to get 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine but “somebody dropped the ball.”
Locsin said he and Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez had arranged for the delivery of the vaccine with the help of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
He said that the purchase of the Pfizer vaccine was to be bankrolled by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), adding that the Pfizer vaccine was supposed to be shipped through FedEx to Clark Airport in January.
When asked to explain, Locsin just said Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., head of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 who had been designated by President Duterte to lead the vaccine program, would be the one “ordering.”
It is clear that there is a need for officials in the Duterte government to get their act together and work ASAP to get the vaccine, either Sinovac, Pfizer, Moderna or AstroZeneca. Any delay would mean more Filipino lives lost.