With his country badly lagging in Covid vaccinations, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines railed against the world’s affluent countries at the United Nations on Tuesday, accusing them of hoarding vaccines while the poor “wait for trickles.”
Reinforcing his reputation as blunt speaker, Mr. Duterte described the rich-poor divide over vaccination rates as scandalous. His remarks, delivered via prerecorded video to the 193-member General Assembly, were among the most forceful criticisms of the inequities that have been laid bare by the pandemic.
Just 10 rich countries account for most of the 5.86 billion vaccine doses administered so far.
“There is a man-made drought of vaccines ravaging poor countries,” Mr. Duterte said. “Rich countries hoard lifesaving vaccines while poor nations wait for trickles. They now talk of booster shots, while developing countries consider half-doses just to get by.”
The disparity, he said, “is shocking beyond belief and must be condemned for what it is — a selfish act that can neither be justified rationally nor morally.”
The Philippines has one of the lowest Covid vaccination rates in Asia, with just 16 percent of its population fully inoculated, and Delta variant infections have surged in recent months. The country also is among only a handful that have kept schools closed throughout the pandemic, which has put its 27 million school-age children at an increased disadvantage.
Mr. Duterte has justified keeping elementary schools and high schools closed by arguing that students and their families need to be protected from contagion. But his policy has spawned a backlash among parents and students in a sprawling nation with endemic poverty. Many people, particularly in remote and rural areas, lack access to online learning.