Vaccine hoarding more international than a local problem

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    ‘WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward said some countries are pursuing deals that will compromise the COVAX supply.’

    MALACAÑANG, thru presidential spokesman Harry Roque, has warned local residents who are thinking of making a fast buck by hoarding the still-to-be-received COVID-19 vaccines and/or selling these vaccines which are supposed to be given free by the government.

    Roque said estafa charges could be filed against a person who demands payment from people who wanted to receive the jabs. The government will send them to jail, he said, adding that President Duterte promised that the vaccine is free to all Filipinos.

    While illegal reselling of vaccines (only the China-donated Sinovac is here; AstraZeneca is delayed by one week) might be a problem for government personnel handling these important merchandise, the matter of hoarding is almost nil because of the very limited local supply. Even smuggling the vaccine from anywhere in the world is very improbable since countries which manufacture these vaccines are also tightly guarding their supplies to meet their needs.

    In fact, officials of the World Health Organization have sounded the alarm on the propensity of rich, vaccine-producing countries to hoard the supply, to the point that even the global COVAX program for poor and middle-income countries — where the Philippines depends on for much of its expected global share of the vaccines — is being compromised.

    WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward said some countries are pursuing deals that will compromise the COVAX supply. Sadly, leaders of these countries have not truly ingested the message of WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “We can’t beat COVID without vaccine equity. Our world will not recover fast enough without vaccine equity, this is clear.”

    The WHO chief has noted that we have made great progress in stemming the wave of coronavirus 2019 infections, but that progress is fragile.

    “We need to accelerate the supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and we cannot do that if some countries continue to approach manufacturers who are producing vaccines that COVAX is counting on,” he stressed.

    Now more than ever, the community of nations should instill in every country the rejection of all actions that would undermine COVAX, for they will “deprive health workers and vulnerable people around the world of life-saving vaccines.”