'Wala pa': Duterte says Philippines yet to buy vaccines

John Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2021 11:32 PM | Updated as of Mar 25 2021 10:58 AM

MANILA (UPDATE)- The Philippine hasn't yet purchased any vaccines from foreign drugmakers, President Rodrigo Duterte said Wednesday, amid queries from officials and the public over the whereabouts of COVID-19 jabs supposedly bought with loans by government.

Duterte in a public briefing said the current COVID-19 vaccines that are being distributed in the country were donated by China and the COVAX Facility, an initiative which aims for equitable access to COVID-19 jabs.

"Sabihin mo, 'san ang bakuna?' Bakuna nabili? Wala. Wala tayong bakuna na nabili. Wala pa. Kung magdating man, baka mga next week siguro," he said.

(You ask, 'where's the vaccine?' You mean bought vaccines? There's none. We haven't yet bought any vaccine. If there will be a shipment, maybe it'll arrive next week.)

Duterte repeated his earlier statement that funds borrowed by government to buy COVID-19 vaccines are "still in the bank."

The Philippines had received at least 1 million vaccines from China-based drugmaker Sinovac, courtesy of Beijing. The COVAX facility has also donated to the country 525,000 COVID-19 shots from UK-based AstraZeneca, which is in partnership with University of Oxford.

Duterte's vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez, earlier said at least 1 million more Sinovac vaccine doses, which were bought under contract, will arrive in the Philippines by March 29.

As of Wednesday, the Philippines has received a total of 1,525,600 vaccine doses which health officials say aren't still enough to inoculate 1.7 million health workers that are prioritized in the country's vaccination rollout.

Senators Panfilo Lacson and Risa Hontiveros earlier questioned the Philippines' supply of COVID-19 vaccines and the pace of the vaccine drive, respectively, amid a renewed surge of coronavirus infections in the country.

Lacson tweeted a list of Philippine loans from various organizations and asked where the vaccines are, while Hontiveros noted that the number of vaccinated health workers is still low, given that the vaccine drive started on March 1. According to the senator, more than P126 billion have been borrowed by national government in its COVID-19 response.

But Finance Sec. Carlos "Sonny" Domínguez III responded that the loans that the Philippines took since 2020 were not only used for acquiring COVID-19 vaccines.

He said the Philippines has P82.5 billion funds for the COVID-19 vaccines which "will buy us enough doses to inoculate 100% of our adult population."

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