MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines committed to donating $1 million, or around P50 million, to the COVAX global vaccine sharing initiative, which seeks to boost COVID-19 inoculation programs in lower-income countries, President Rodrigo Duterte said.
In a meeting aired Monday evening, Duterte said the World Health Organization-led program has helped the country “a lot” in its vaccination drive.
“I will contribute because COVAX has been good to us. At the time we needed it most, [it was] one of the earliest agencies to help us aside from the contributions made by China,” the president said.
“Now that they are running out of funds, maybe because they are helping other nations all over the world. And as a beneficiary of the generosity of COVAX and their desire also to help people, we will answer their pleadings of donation. The Philippines is giving $1 million. So it’s our turn also to return the goodwill that they have shown,” he added.
Duterte said COVAX had formally asked the Philippines, which has been criticized for its slow vaccine rollout, for donation.
In late May, COVAX facility said it needs $2 billion in additional funding by the beginning of June in order to deliver two billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide in 2021, and 1.8 billion doses by early 2022.
COVAX said it has already delivered 70 million vaccine doses to 126 countries, but it will face shortfall of 190 million doses by end-June because of the “severe impact” on the program's supply due to the terrible surge in infections in India. The South Asian nation is home to Serum Institue, which is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume.
The Philippines has so far received over 2.5 million doses of AstraZeneca and 193,050 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility.
Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said in an interview over radio dzMM that the country is expected to receive 2.3 million Pfizer-BioNTech and 2 million AstraZeneca doses from the vaccine-sharing program.
Since launching its massive vaccination campaign on March 1, the Philippines tallied only over 1.2 million people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The number of people who have completed inoculation is still far from the government’s initial goal of vaccinating up to 70 million this year to achieve herd immunity. — with report from Agence France-Presse