President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday expressed his gratitude to the countries behind the donation of the first batch of AstraZeneca coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) that arrived in the Philippines on Thursday night.
Duterte personally witnessed the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccines at the Villamor Airbase from the COVAX initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO).
“I don’t know how to express my gratitude to the donor countries. That you remember the poor nations is in fact a plus for humanity,” Duterte said in his speech during a ceremony for the vaccines’ arrival.
“And on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines and of the people, I’d like to say again that we felt the gratitude in our hearts and may God bless you for your benevolence. Thank you,” he added.
The first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines was produced in South Korea and donated by more than a dozen countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Norway, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, and Greece.
A total of 487,200 doses of the vaccines arrived from Belgium via a KLM commercial flight that landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 at past 7 p.m.
In a statement, the European Union Delegation in Manila said the bloc, as one of the contributors in the COVAX Facility, has so far provided P130 billion to help 92 low and middle-income countries, including the Philippines.
“Team Europe is proud to contribute to the COVAX facility to help provide affordable and fair access to vaccines for Filipinos. Under COVAX, the Philippines will receive vaccines for 22 million Filipinos,” said EU Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Véron.
WHO CITES COOPERATION
WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said this first batch of supply is a “testament to the strength of collaboration, cooperation, and compassion.”
He also thanked all donor countries, mostly from Europe for their contribution and investments that made the consignment of safe and effective vaccines to Manila possible.
“The consignment received today will be followed by up to 4.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines scheduled to arrive before the end of May in batches in addition to other vaccine stated to be delivered to the Philippines through the COVAX Facility,” Abeyasinghe said in his speech.
The vaccine supply from COVAX is expected to cover at least 20 percent of the country’s population, with medical frontliners, the elderly, and those suffering from co-morbidities as priorities.
“Standing together in solidarity has indeed made us stronger,” he said. “We honor the government of the Philippines for the strong leadership provided under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte throughout the response and the dedicated team of the Department of Health.”
Abeyasinghe said WHO’s work with the Philippine government also includes supporting the DOH in strategic planning, demand generation, and establishing a “robust information system” for vaccine tracking and user monitoring.
“The WHO, UNICEF, and other UN organizations and our partners in the Philippines and our donors look forward to supporting the Covid-19 vaccination campaign throughout the country,” he added.
Duterte said the latest delivery would boost the national vaccination program.
“The need for international solidarity and cooperation cannot be made clearer than this pandemic because no one is safe globally until everyone is safe,” he said.
He enjoined all government agencies to actively institutionalize and sustain the whole-of-government approach, while asking the public to cooperate and get vaccinated.
“Be the government’s partner in preventing further spread of the disease. I encourage you to get vaccinated at the soonest possible time. These vaccines are safe and they are the key to reopening our society, ” he said.
The vaccines were transported to Metropac in Marikina for storage, with distribution expected to start immediately after repackaging.