President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday took the blame for the lack of COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines at the start of the year, saying the global shortage of jabs contributed to the delay in deliveries.
As chief executive, Duterte said the public should blame him and not any other official for the low supply of vaccines at the start of the year. As of early October, the country has fully vaccinated 23 million people, or roughly 21% of the population.
"Kung mayroon man nagkasala diyan, aminin ko na lang kasi wala man rin akong magawa. Gusto kong bumili, wala naman akong mabilihan," he said in his late night public address.
"Kung kasalanan man ‘yan, eh walang iba diyan kung hindi ako na. Aaminin ko na ‘yan. Ako ang nakaupo ngayon sa opisina ko...so somebody has to," he said.
The government has been heavily criticized for the slow rollout of vaccines which authorities blamed on the lack of supply globally.
It was only in March that the Philippines started its COVID-19 immunization program with inoculations limited to health workers. Variant-driven surges hit in April and August, with the second still ongoing.
Until September, COVID-19 vaccines in the country were available only for health workers, senior citizens, persons with comorbidities, the working population, and the poor.
Duterte only opened vaccine slots to the general public in October as the country received more supply of jabs. The Philippines is also set to start vaccinating children and teens this month.
So far, some 23 million individuals have been fully vaccinated in the Philippines. Vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. had said that the government aims to inoculate 90% of its population in the first quarter of 2022, ahead of the elections.