2.2 million Pfizer doses arrive in the Philippines . . .
On Thursday, 2.2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the COVAX global facility arrived in the Philippines. The Philippine Ambassador to the U.S., Jose Manuel Romualdez, also announced that the U.S. will donate surplus vaccines to the Philippines by the end of June, a welcome relief as the country struggles with vaccine shortage. As of June 7, only 4.1 per cent of the population had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 1.46 per cent had received two. At this rate, the Philippines lags behind its neighbours, like Indonesia and Singapore. Indonesia has fully vaccinated 4.2 per cent of its population, and Singapore has vaccinated 32 per cent. Globally, about 6.2 per cent have been fully vaccinated, and 5.9 per cent have been partially vaccinated. In May, the Philippine government lowered the initial year-end vaccination target of 70 million people to 58 million people. The low vaccination rate has had a terrible impact on Filipino lives, with thousands plunged into a hunger crisis.
The bigger problem: Vaccination fears . . .
Many Filipinos still resist vaccination, distrusting the China-produced Sinovac vaccine, even after the WHO approved it for emergency use. A May 2021 surveyby the Social Weather Station revealed that 68 per cent of Filipinos were “unwilling” or “uncertain” of getting vaccinated. This has slowed down vaccination as Filipinos only go to vaccination centres using Pfizer. This has pushed the Department of Health (DOH) to order local government units not to disclose vaccine brands at distribution sites. Many Filipinos also mistrust vaccines in general, traumatized by the 2017 Dengue vaccine controversy, where 730,000 Filipinos received a Dengue vaccine before rollout was halted due to severe side effects.
Growing inoculation gap . . .
Due to sluggish vaccination rates, a bill has been proposed in the House of Representatives requiring mandatory vaccination for all Filipinos. The DOH has voiced its opposition to the bill, stating that vaccination should be voluntary. Although the bill has not progressed any further, its proposal raises alarming concerns. In this context, returning to “normal” through vaccination may be challenging for countries like the Philippines, spelling a grim prospect as the inoculation gap between developed and developing economies continue to grow.