March 9, 2022
MANILA — From being a recipient, the Philippines is considering donating COVID-19 vaccines to other countries in need of these doses.
“We have sufficient vaccines and some of their shelf life are nearing its expiry,” Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, who heads the National Vaccine Operations Center of the the National Task Force Against COVID-19, said in an online briefing on Tuesday.
Among the possible recipient countries being considered by the government are those in Africa as well as Myanmar.
But Cabotaje said there was still no specific number of vaccine doses to be donated.
She said the government would first request the manufacturers if the shelf life of the doses sent to the country could be extended. This would then be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
As of Monday, a total of 232,673,310 doses have been delivered to the country since early last year, of which about 74 million were sent through the Covax global vaccine pool.
An estimated 60 million doses remain in cold storage facilities.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the country had yet to meet its target of vaccinating 70 percent of the population and 80 percent of the elderly.
He therefore expressed skepticism about placing the entire country under alert level 1.
“Not now. We don’t want to lose what we have already achieved. We need to be cautious,” he said in a radio interview.
But the government’s economic managers have proposed placing the country under the most relaxed quarantine level, as they warned the economy would likely be affected by the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on oil prices.
In a meeting at Malacañang on Monday, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III cited, as among the effects of the conflict, higher oil and food prices, a surge in interest rates, a decline in investments due to uncertainty and the need for government support to protect vulnerable citizens and the critical sectors.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said a shift to Alert Level 1 and the reopening of all schools nationwide would “increase our domestic economy and offset the external risks” from the conflict.
But Duque in his interview said: “In the end, we don’t want to have widespread lockdowns again because of [their] adverse effect on our economy. We really saw how the economy was affected.”