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At UN, Duterte calls for equal access to COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 vaccines must be must be made available to all nations, rich and poor, President Rodrigo told the United Nations on Wednesday.

"The world is in a race to find a safe and effective vaccine. When the world finds that vaccine, access to it must not be denied nor withheld. It should be made available to all, rich and poor nations alike, as a matter of policy," Duterte said in a recorded statement at the UN General Assembly's General Debate, which began late Tuesday night Philippine time.

"The COVID-19 vaccine must be considered a global public good. Let us be clear on this," he added.

Calling the pandemic "the biggest test the world and the United Nations has faced since World War II," Duterte said that the world needs coordinated plans and efforts to combat it.

"COVID-19 knows no border, it knows no nationality, it knows no race. It knows no gender, it knows no age, it knows no creed," he said.

In July, the Philippines joined COVAX (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access), the part of the World Health Organization's Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator that focuses on ensuring everyone a fair and equitable access to a vaccine. Its initial aim is to deliver two billion doses of safe and effective vaccines to all participating countries by the end of 2021.

Duterte also lauded a UN fund aimed at helping low- and middle-income countries respond to the pandemic.

"As a middle-income country whose economic advances have been derailed by the pandemic, we welcome the launch of the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund. Ensuring universal access to anti-COVID-19 technologies and products is pivotal in the global pandemic recovery," he said.

Duterte praised the health workers on the front lines of the war against the virus.

"We salute all frontliners who put their lives on the line even in countries not their own. So also do we honor and recognize the healthcare professionals who selflessly answered the call to combat the COVID-19 pandemic despite its virulence and unknown characteristics," he said, adding that the Philippines has some of the world's best health workers.

Despite these words from the President, the Philippines' nurses have the lowest salaries in Southeast Asia, according to a recent study.

The Philippines also ranked low—66th out of 91 countries—in COVID-19 suppression, as rated by leading international medical journal The Lancet, partly due to Duterte's  “medical populism,” it said.

Duterte was among 180 world leaders speaking at the UN event on the occasion of the global body's 75th anniversary.

The Philippines has recorded 291,789 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, including 5,049 deaths. — BM, GMA News