The grave delay and lack of supply of Covid-19 vaccines is the most recent of an apparent endless failures, neglect and corruption of the Duterte regime in facing the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has been a month since mass vaccination started in various parts of the world, but the Duterte regime has yet to take steps to ensure that a large part of the Philippine population is protected from Covid-19.
In fact, the Duterte government has no plans to lead a mass vaccination program. In its 2021 budget, it alloted a mere 2.7% of the estimated ₱72 billion needed to vaccinate 60% of the population. The rest will be borrowed from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
It is also now requiring big capitalists to “donate” half of the vaccines they will purchase. Duterte declared that he does not care if local government units buy vaccines on their own from pharmaceutical companies, but obliges them to have the national government be part of the deals. Local governments without funds are sure to be last to get vaccines.
Planned vaccine purchases are grossly insufficient. A mere 42 million is said to have been contracted by the national government (Sinovac), and by LGUs and private companies (AstraZeneca). Even if all these are distributed, only 21 million or 19% of the 110 Filipinos will be covered, far from the recommended 60%. Several million vaccines are also set to be sold by Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer.
Vaccine purchases stink with corruption. As early as September, Duterte had expressly favored buying vaccines from China and Russia. Secret negotiations have been going on for months. Duterte’s officials were securing deals for themselves until a “vaccine czar” was appointed, who recently announced that a contract with the Chinese Sinovac company has been sealed, even if the price and efficacy of the vaccine is not yet clear. Duterte and his officials are believed to have pocketed large amounts of kickbacks. Sinovac is globally known for bribing government officials.
According to Duterte’s officials, the earliest vaccines will arrive by the end of February. But even before this, people close to Duterte, including his personal soldier guards, have already been inoculated, to the displeasure of health workers who were supposed to be first in line. It has been reported that Chinese vaccines have already been smuggled in to vaccinate 100,000 Chinese POGO workers.
In the Philippines and the entire world, monopoly capitalist control of vaccine development is now being put to focus. Vaccines are developed and manufactured not for the benefit of humanity but for profits. The Covid-19 is being exploited by giant pharmaceutical companies who are now racing to control the market. Instead of cooperation, there is secrecy and competition between these companies. They keep their vaccine researches and knowledge under wraps. Negotiations for sales are also done secretly to sell these at the highest price.
The Philippines has no capacity to develop or manufacture its own vaccines or other important medicine, except paracetamol. Under Duterte, funding for research has further been cut. Thus, when it comes to Covid-19 vaccines, the monopoly capitalists and foreign governments hold Filipinos by the neck. They are in partnership with local big capitalists and in connivance with the bureaucrat capitalist government.
In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic that has infected half a million Filipinos, and more than 95 million people globally, and caused the death of more than 2 million, various countries are exerting efforts to carry out a program for widespread vaccination. Capitalist countries such as the United Kingdom, United States, Japan, China, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and others have taken lead. Even less developed countries as Cuba, India, Vietnam, Iran and others have developed their own vaccines and are set on distributing these for free.
The Party encourages all Filipinos to have themselves vaccinated against Covid-19. This is for the health of every individual and the whole society. Widespread vaccination of the population is one of the key measures to stop the spread of the Covid-19. At the same time, the decision of individuals not to have themselves vaccinated for their beliefs must be respected.
All revolutionary forces must carry out efforts to disseminate information to raise the people’s knowledge of vaccines to allay their fears and misbeliefs. Help everyone understand the importance of vaccines.
People must demand that research and development of Covid-19 vaccines be made public. This is in order for people to have a firm basis for deciding which vaccine they will allow themselves to be injected with.
The Filipino people must fight for free Covid-19 vaccination. They must assert the state’s obligation to ensure that free and safe vaccines are available to everyone who chooses to be inoculated. Expose and denounce the lack of budget and the corruption of government officials in secret negotiations for vaccine sales.
At the same time, they must demand free testing and free treatment for Covid-19. The people must continue to demand the strengthening of the public health system. There must be increased allocations for improving public hospitals, hiring more nurses and medical workers and for raising their salaries.
Vaccination is an important aspect in controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Many diseases have been eliminated or controlled through vaccines. This is one of the important scientific weapons of humanity.