MANILA - In his second appearance at the United Nations, President Rodrigo Duterte renewed his call for universal and inclusive access to COVID-19 vaccines, as their development by year's end is near realization while the coronavirus pandemic still rages on.
Duterte, in a video message at UN early Friday morning (Manila time), said all countries should get access to coronavirus vaccines once these have been developed, deemed effective, and distributed to the public.
"The Philippines reiterates the call for the universal access of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and technologies. If any country is excluded by reason of poverty or strategic unimportance, this gross injustice will haunt the world for a long time," he said.
"We cannot let this happen. No one is safe unless everyone is safe."
His renewed call for inclusive vaccine access comes after drugmakers Moderna, Pfizer Inc., and AstraZeneca declared their COVID-19 vaccines showed efficacy results 90 percent and above.
Duterte urged UN member states to boost the capacity of their health systems as the world waits for the full development and distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Our first priority is to strengthen the capacity of health systems. Without a cure and a vaccine, we can only delay the spread of the disease while we open our economies. Life-saving services and products must be made accessible to the most vulnerable," he said.
He affirmed the Philippines' support for the global scientific initiatives by the World Health Organization, such as the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, the COVAX Facility, and the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). He assured the Philippines' participation in pooling of global funds and resources to combat COVID-19 worldwide.
"The end of this pandemic is still difficult to see, yet the broad outlines of the horizon are breaking through. It is never too early to think of a bouncing-back strategy," he said.
"Now is the time to further strengthen our networks of solidarity and cooperation...the time is now for greater collective courage, meaningful actions to see the end of this pandemic."
In his first appearance at the UN, Duterte described the pandemic as the "biggest test" the world and the UN is facing since World War 2.
The Philippines earlier allowed its Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines and drugs. The emergency use authorization “shall be valid only within the duration of the declared public health emergency due to COVID-19,” said Duterte.
As of posting, the Philippines has 435,413 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of the total, 399,325 have recovered while 8,446 died, leaving at least 27,642 active cases in the country.
According to the Johns Hopkins University dashboard, at least 64.8 million people worldwide have been infected with COVID-19, with nearly 1.5 million fatalities, a year after the deadly disease first emerged in Wuhan, China.