President Rodrigo Duterte could be injected with Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine as early as May 2021, Malacañang said Thursday, despite growing skepticism about its safety and effectiveness.
In a televised briefing, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte will receive the Sputnik V vaccine as early as May 1, 2021 provided that the vaccine is approved by the Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“The May 1 is when the PSG (Presidential Security Group) may allow him ‘pag natapos na ang mga test na kinakailangang gawin dito sa [Sputnik V] vaccine,” Roque said. “It’s not a metaphorical statement. He is willing to undergo it [vaccination].”
Roque said the vaccine expert panel will review the results of the phase 1 and 2 clinical trials this September. Roque said the Philippines and Russia will run simultaneous phase 3 clinical trials.
Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of Philippine Council for Health Research, said Sputnik V could be available for commercial use in the Philippines by April 2021.
“Kailangan approved muna ng Russian FDA (Food and Drug Administration) bago ma-approve ng FDA ng ibang bansa. Ang projection po nila (Russians) ng kanilang FDA approval ay January 2021,” Montoya said in an interview on Dobol B sa News TV.
Montoya was part of a team of Philippine health and vaccine experts who met with representatives of Sputnik V's Russian manufacturer Gamaleya and other Russian investors in connection with Phase 3 of clinical trials in the Philippines.
The conduct of phase 3 clinical trials in the Philippines will run from October 2020 to March 2021 with Russia expected to shoulder the costs. Roque said the Philippines and Russia will run simultaneous phase 3 clinical trials.
The vaccine will then have to go through the registration process before the FDA in April 2021.
Roque said the timeline was prepared by the Department of Health and the Department of Science and Technology.
Russia on Tuesday became the first country to give regulatory approval to a vaccine without the crucial phase 3, in which the vaccine is given to thousands of people to determine if it is safe and effective. The announcement has raised concerns about the speed of development of the vaccine.
Duterte, however, expressed his trust in the Russian vaccine, saying he is willing to have himself injected in public.
Malacañang also reiterated its support for a possible cooperation with Russia on vaccine development and production, adding it underscored deepening ties between the two countries.
“As we have said, the Philippines is ready to work with Russia, on clinical trials, vaccine supply and production, among others, subject to our existing laws and local processes,” Roque said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Cooperation on public health, especially at a time when it is most needed, can be a cornerstone of convergence. It is a good opportunity to enhance ties with our key partners.”
Both Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, however, have said that Sputnik V, which has not been cleared by the World Health Organization, needs further study.
Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla, for one, has been vocal about his concerns, urging the Department of Health (DOH) to be cautious in the process of evaluating a vaccine for COVID-19.
"Ako po ay nababahala sa mainit na balita na ang Russia ay maglalabas na ng vaccine para sa COVID-19. I have nothing against the Russians nor am I connected to any preferred country or vaccine manufacturer," Remulla said in a Facebook post.
Amid Putin's announcement of a vaccine against COVID-19, WHO said its stamp of approval on a vaccine candidate would require a rigorous safety data review.
"We are in close contact with the Russian health authorities and discussions are ongoing with respect to possible WHO pre-qualification of the vaccine," said the United Nations health agency's spokesman Tarik Jasarevic. —KBK, GMA News