MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte is not holding any of his Cabinet members accountable for the delay in the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, an official said on Tuesday.
Duterte "understands" that the Philippines is "at the receiving end of these vaccines," said Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles.
"As much as we want to and as practicable as possible, ginagawa naman po natin ang lahat ng kinakailangan natin (we are doing everything we need to do), based on the requirements being asked of us," he told reporters in a televised briefing.
"At the end of the day, it's really the vaccine manufacturers' obligation, responsibility to ship it to us at a time that was promised... We are at the receiving end."
Asked if this meant that Duterte was blaming vaccine makers instead of Cabinet members for the vaccination delay, Nograles said, "Ginagawa natin ang lahat ng dapat at kailangan gawin as far as what is required of us, and what is being asked of us."
(We are doing everything that we must and need to do.)
Video courtesy of PTV
The lack of an indemnification deal that protect vaccine makers from lawsuit in case of adverse effects has delayed the arrival of 117,000 COVID-19 shots from Pfizer through the COVAX Facility, initially expected in mid-February.
Issues with the emergency use authorization which China required for its donation of 600,000 COVID-19 shots to the Philippines also pushed back their supposed arrival this Tuesday. The Philippine drug regulator eventually granted the EUA on Monday.
The Philippines has not yet received any shipment of legal vaccines which it aims to give to 70 million people or about two-thirds of the population this year.
Further delays could derail economic recovery after the country's worst contraction on record last year, when it slumped 9.5 percent, the worst in Southeast Asia.
With more than 563,000 cases and nearly 12,100 deaths, the Philippines has the second highest COVID-19 infections and casualties in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia.
— With a report from Reuters