Philippines’ Duterte blasts ‘selfish’ nations over vaccines

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte criticized rich nations at the U.N. General Assembly for hoarding COVID-19 vaccines while much of the developing world continues to suffer shortages.

“The picture is bleak. It is a man-made drought of vaccines ravaging the poor countries,” Duterte said in a video message. “Rich countries hoard life-saving vaccines while poor nations wait for trickles. They now talk of booster shots, while developing countries consider half doses just to get by.”

He added: “This is shocking beyond belief and must be condemned for what it is: a selfish act that can neither be justified rationally or morally.”

The Philippines’ vaccination campaign started in March after repeated delays, and has been plagued by shortages, delivery delays and hesitancy, including from those who prefer Western brands.

Duterte’s popularity has remained strong despite the Philippines’ struggles through the pandemic, with rising infections and deaths over the past two months.

About 17% of Filipinos have been fully vaccinated, or nearly 19 million people, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Other heads-of-state, including the presidents of Peru and Colombia, also bemoaned the need to reduce global inequity for vaccine access.

“The plain fact is this pandemic will not end unless this virus is defeated everywhere,” Duterte said.

He added that inequality is the common thread in not just the pandemic, but also climate change and geopolitical tensions.