Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on Tuesday attributed the delay in the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country to a supply shortage, as he disagreed with Senator Franklin Drilon's assessment that it is because of government's mismanagement.
Drilon aired his views last month, following news reports that the coronavirus jabs haven't arrived due to the lack at that time of an indemnification law, which pharmaceutical companies and the COVAX facility had required.
"I’d like to disagree because the global supply is the big problem. Yung shortage talaga, yun ang malaking problem natin (the shortage is really our big problem)," Duque said during an ANC's Headstart interview in reaction to Drilon's statement.
"Ten countries have already secured 75 percent of the global supply and even the WHO has missed on its target to get the poorer countries get off with their vaccination, 130 countries. The painful problem is that the supply was cornered by rich countries," he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte made a similar claim earlier, saying AstraZeneca was “held hostage by the European Union."
The international bloc later clarified that its export controls on the vaccines would not hamper Philippine access.
The Philippines began its vaccination rollout on Monday using coronavirus shots from Sinovac Biotech, donated by the Chinese government.
A shipment of 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine was also expected to arrive Monday but Duque had said it would be delayed by another week.
The Philippines' drug regulator has so far approved COVID-19 vaccines from Sinovac, AstraZeneca, and Pfizer for emergency use in the country.
More than 578,000 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in the country, of which 31,708 or 5.5 percent are active cases.