Update on vaccines

by Ambassador B. Romualdez

The Pandemic Sub-National Reference Laboratory at the Jose B. Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital in San Fernando City, Pampanga. | Photo by Eric Sales/ Asian Development Bank via Flickr/Creative Commons

We are very much aware of the critical COVID-19 situation in our country and are now working double time in pressing for early deliveries of the Moderna vaccines with the supply agreement we signed a month ago. We met with the US government to hopefully allow the export of a portion of that order by mid-May. We are also signing up for another five million doses in addition to the 20 million doses that we recently secured.

Based on the latest reports from the US CDC, Moderna proves to be highly effective under “real-world conditions,” preventing 90 percent of infections two weeks after the second dose. The US National Institutes of Health has also started trials of the Moderna booster for the South Africa variant that scientists describe as “problematic” since it seems to spread much faster than the original strains.

Moderna has been very supportive of the Philippine government’s efforts, which is why I invited them to consider the country as a future vaccine distribution hub for Asia, with Clark as an ideal location because FedEx is there.

We are also working closely with the COVAX Facility for the Pfizer vaccines, pushing for early deliveries as soon as possible. Hopefully, whatever legal impediments there maybe will soon be resolved.

Moderna informed us of their willingness to deliver as soon as the US government achieves its target to have every adult American vaccinated by May 1. Currently, the American government has secured vaccine doses enough for 400 million people – which is about 70 million more than the entire number of American citizens estimated at 330 million

Reports say there could be a potential “glut” of vaccines in the US by May. While we laud President Biden and his administration for accelerating the vaccine rollout and exceeding the initial target of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office, we conveyed to the White House that the Philippines, together with other ASEAN member-countries need the vaccines today – not tomorrow.

Moderna informed us of their willingness to deliver as soon as the US government achieves its target to have every adult American vaccinated by May 1.

I know the anxiety level we all have. Still, we have to understand that the situation has become critical in many countries around the world, such as India, Brazil, and Chile that is experiencing a surge despite its early vaccination success because “there are those who fail to comply with measures such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, ventilation or avoidance of crowded places” – all of which must continue, said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s the technical lead of COVID-19 response.

While vaccines are the most effective way to control the coronavirus’s spread, we must not let our guard down.

I received a message from my niece which I want to share with you – my dear friends, relatives, and readers:

“Too many people I personally know have either contracted the coronavirus or have died from it. We are at the home stretch of surviving this pandemic. The reason we endured one of the longest and strictest lockdowns was so that we could hold out until the vaccines arrive. We are almost there. Regardless of whose fault it is, let’s all do our part and remain vigilant… let’s just pour our energy in protecting and helping each other so that we might find the determination to endure what could be our darkest hour.”

ASEAN ambassadors in DC express concern over hate crimes

In 2020, the number of hate crimes against Americans of Asian descent spiked to 150 percent in some of the largest cities in the United States, and this trend continues to this day with over 500 incidents recorded in the first two months of 2021 alone.

The brutal attack against the 65-year-old Filipina in New York was very disturbing, with this huge man repeatedly kicking the victim’s head. The attacker – who has since been arrested by the New York City Police Department – was out on parole after 17 years in prison for killing his mother.

During our latest meeting with advisers at the White House, one of the first things that my fellow ASEAN diplomats and I immediately raised is our serious concern over the increasing incidence of hate crimes against Asian Americans that range from verbal harassment and discrimination to violent assaults, some of which have resulted in death. While those of Chinese descent have borne the brunt of the attacks, others have also experienced harassment such as the Vietnamese, Thais, Cambodians, Filipinos, and others.

The latest incidents clearly underscore how serious the situation has become, which is why we are working even more closely with the US government in Washington, D.C., and state and local officials. Our consulates across the United States have been meeting with their respective local law enforcement agencies to enhance the protection of Filipino-Americans and Filipinos working in the US.

“Our consulates across the United States have been meeting with their respective local law enforcement agencies to enhance the protection of Filipino-Americans and Filipinos working in the US.”

We thank the administration of President Joe Biden for taking this issue very seriously, with over $80 million allocated for programs to address violence against Asian Americans. More law enforcement people are also being deployed, including undercover officers of Asian descent who will be on patrol in areas with big Asian populations. We at the Philippine embassy continue to put the welfare of Filipinos living in the US as a top priority and, to this end, we have put up hotlines for emergency cases, and we are ready to connect with appropriate authorities and community groups that could offer further assistance.

As President Joe Biden himself said, this rising anti-Asian violence “…must stop. And it is on all of us, all of us together, to make it stop.”
Email: babeseyeview@gmail.com

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