Why Aren’t Indonesia And The Philippines Getting The Vaccines They Need?

There is a glaring global inequity in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. As of Aug 12, 2021, only 9.6% of Indonesia’s population and 10.8% of the Philippines’ population were vaccinated as compared to rates of 50% in the US and 53% in Europe, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker.

This stems from wealthier countries like the United States, Britain and Singapore having had the funds to invest billions in pharmaceutical companies to supercharge the urgent development of vaccines. Such countries were entitled to priority access to the vaccines once they were available.

The concern, however, is that large unvaccinated populations make for potential breeding grounds for dangerous mutations of the coronavirus to emerge. To address the problem of vaccine nationalism, the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) was set up, funded by wealthier countries, philanthropic and private sector contributions to help countries get more equitable access. Both Indonesia – which in July briefly overtook India as the epicentre of the pandemic in Asia, with record new infections daily – and the Philippines have signed up to COVAX for vaccines, although there is a supply bottleneck due to high demand.

Both countries have struggled to get hold of vaccines from Western pharmaceutical companies, and as a result turned to China in mid-2020 for help with Chinese-produced vaccines like Sinovac and Sinopharm. This has raised concerns over how it might obligate both governments in bilateral issues – but it also meant delivery of millions of doses well ahead of what other vaccine makers could promise.

Other headway has been made: In June 2021, world leaders at the G7 summit pledged US$870 million in vaccine donations globally. And in August 2021, Indonesia and the Philippines are expected to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, enough for 10% and 20% of their populations respectively. Indonesia-based vaccine maker Bio Farma has also started talking with China about producing the Sinovac vaccine from scratch.

WATCH the full Insight episode of Asia’s Vaccine Disparity: What Will It Take To Inoculate Southeast Asia?: https://youtu.be/GUVKWAEO_hY

‘Herd Stupidity’? Expert’s Take On Indonesia COVID-19 Surge: https://youtu.be/LgaIxqZ446s
Starving in Philippines’ Coronavirus Lockdown: A 16-Year-Old’s Story: https://youtu.be/RhDHGgo4yZg
Singapore’s 3 COVID-19 Vaccines – And Is One Better Than The Others?: https://youtu.be/KWmO8sTjuwU


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