MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered military and police to airlift COVID-19 vaccines across the country’s provinces to bypass “gridlocks” in jab distribution that he blamed on local governments.
While nearly 90 per cent of adults in the capital region are fully vaccinated, only about 35 per cent of adults in the country have had both jabs.
“(Supplies) will no longer pass through the provincial government because that would be another gridlock,” Duterte said in a meeting with pandemic advisers on Tuesday (Apr 2) that was broadcast Wednesday.
Duterte has leaned heavily on the armed services to fight the pandemic. They enforced one of the world’s most severe lockdowns and transported medical supplies across the country and internationally.
“Upon delivery by plane and arrival at the (vaccine operations centre), the helicopters there will take over. They would be the ones to take them to the municipal governments,” the president said.
“The armed forces have the lift capability,” military spokesman Colonel Ramon Zagala told AFP Wednesday.
At the same meeting Tuesday, Carlito Galvez, head of the country’s COVID-19 task force, acknowledged that local governments needed to “boost their capacity” to inject more people per day as well as to “procure their own cold chain system” to store more vaccines.
Health secretary Francisco Duque told Duterte coronavirus cases were on a “downward trend” across the country after a September peak.
The government eased some pandemic restrictions in October, opening cinemas and gyms in the capital and allowing higher capacities at restaurants and on public transport.
On Wednesday the government rolled out vaccines for 12.7 million young people aged 12-17.