COVID-19 vaccines reach all Southeast Asian nations except Philippines

February 26, 2021 - 9:13 AM
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A worker performs a quality check in the packaging facility of Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac Biotech, developing an experimental coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, during a government-organized media tour in Beijing, China, September 24, 2020. (Reuters/Thomas Peter/File Photo)

The Philippines remains the only country in Southeast Asia with no coronavirus vaccines despite having the highest number of infections in the region at one point.

Here’s a rundown of the Philippines’ neighboring countries and the dates of arrival of their vaccines that would help protect their citizens from the virus which causes COVID-19.

  1. Laos – December 2020 (Sinovac)
  2. Singapore – December 21, 2020 (Pfizer, Moderna)
  3. Indonesia – December 6, 2020 (Sinovac)
  4. Myanmar – January 22, 2021 (Sputnik V)
  5. Thailand – February 24, 2021 (AstraZeneca)
  6. Vietnam – February 24, 2021 (AstraZeneca)
  7. Malaysia – February 20, 2021 (Pfizer)
  8. Brunei – February 2021 (Sinopharm)

So far, vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Sinovac have already been approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration.

The national government stated last year that the vaccines were supposed to have arrived this February.

Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., however, recently informed lawmakers that vaccine manufacturers require an indemnification measure first before releasing the vials from the COVAX facility.

Health authorities admitted that they were not aware of the indemnification requirements early on.

Under an indemnification program, governments in the world agree that the COVAX global facility, along with the pharmaceutical companies, will not be held liable for any untoward events.

Last Tuesday, February 23, the House of Representatives adopted the Senate version of the indemnity fund measure to expedite the government’s inoculation program.

It is now sent to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature.

Ahead of this, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque announced that 600,000 doses of Sinovac will arrive on Sunday, February 28.

“It rolls out on Monday because our countrymen are excited,” Roque said. 

Unmet targets

Some Filipinos expressed their disappointments over the missed February target on social media.

“So, do we now hold the distinction of being the ONLY ASEAN country who does NOT have vaccines?” one user said.

Economist Ronald Mendoza, meanwhile, noted that smuggling vaccines will also soon be a problem in the country.

“As the only ASEAN country without a vaccine the smuggling pressure will keep increasing. And smuggling illegal drugs into this country is still apparently easy. As a PSG general proudly claimed ‘It was so easy. We did our research. We vaccinated ourselves,’” wrote Mendoza.

Meanwhile, parody page Malacañang Events and Catering Services shared an infographic with the same list of Southeast Asian countries and dates of vaccine arrival.

However, the date of arrival indicated for the Philippines was February 31, 2021. The month of February only has either 28 or 29 days.

On Reddit, users quipped that the country was actually ahead of its neighbors. However, only government officials and Duterte’s allies were inoculated.

“Philippines was actually first in ASEAN to get vaccines (October 2020) but only for government officials,” one user said.

“This. Ramon Tulfo bragged all about it this week,” another said.

Last January, Duterte admitted that members of the Presidential Security Group were already vaccinated with Sinopharm despite it not being registered in the Philippines.

Columnist Mon Tulfo, meanwhile, also recently claimed to have  received a jab of smuggled COVID-19 vaccine.