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Philippines to donate COVID-19 vaccines to Southeast Asian nations –NTF

The Philippines will donate COVID-19 vaccines to its Southeast Asian neighbors amid the ample supply in the country, National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 medical adviser Dr. Ted Herbosa said on Saturday.

Herbosa, citing NTF chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr., said the country had even refused several COVID-19 vaccine donations and instead donated some of these to other Southeast Asian countries.

“Wala tayong problema sa supply, in fact sabi nga sa akin ni Secretary Galvez nagre-refuse pa sila ng donation at nagdo-donate tayo sa iba nating mga kababayan sa Southeast Asia kasi nga ample ang supply natin sa bakuna,” Herbosa said in an interview with Super Radyo dzBB.

(We have no problem with the COVID-19 vaccine supply. In fact, Secretary Galvez told me that they had refused some donations and we are donating to our other compatriots in Southeast Asia because our supply of vaccines is ample.)

Meanwhile, Herbosa noted that NTF officials implemented a vaccine information drive in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) communities as some were still resistant to getting inoculated due to their beliefs.

“Yung BARMM ay very special area nga at pinuntuhan natin 'yon, magkahalo 'yan problema sa access dahil malalayong lugar ang pinupuntahan nila medyo mabigat sa pamasahe at pangalawa may kumalat kasi ron na paniniwala na ito ay hindi Halal yan ang kinakalaban namin,” Herbosa said.

(The BARMM is a very special area and we went there. The vaccine access problems are mixed. Localities are distant and fares are quite expensive. And they have a belief that the vaccine is not Halal, that is what we are fighting against.)

Galvez, who is also the country’s vaccine czar, earlier said that he went to Sumisip, Basilan to encourage Muslim communities there to get inoculated against COVID-19.

In January 2021, then-Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Eric Domingo said COVID-19 vaccine makers are working on securing a “Halal” certification for their products.

Bangsamoro Region leaders raised concerns on COVID-19 vaccines. The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos defines "Halal" in Arabic to mean "permissible" and refers to food and non-food products that are lawful for consumption.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier expressed concern that some communities in Mindanao were resisting the COVID-19 vaccine due to the belief that they were not allowed to receive vaccines due to their culture and religion.

Meanwhile, Herbosa encouraged the public to get their COVID-19 jabs as the government was looking to fully vaccinate 77 million Filipinos against COVID-19 by the end of March, and 90 million by the time Duterte steps down from office on June 30.

Based on the National Vaccination Operations Center (NVOC), the country had administered 135,849,882 COVID-19 vaccine doses nationwide as of March 5.

The NVOC said 61,691,303 first doses had been administered, while 63,681,927 individuals were fully vaccinated and 10,476,652 received their booster shots.

The country started its vaccination program in March 2021. — DVM, GMA News