MANILA (UPDATE3) — President Rodrigo Duterte got inoculated against COVID-19 on Monday night, a video posted by his former longtime aide showed, using a China-made vaccine candidate that has yet to be granted emergency use authorization in the Philippines.
"I feel good and I have been expecting this shot, vaccination a long time ago," Duterte, 76, said in the video uploaded on Sen. Christopher Go's Facebook page. The inoculation was done in Malacanang Palace.
"Sinopharm itong tinuturok sa akin," the President added, referring to one of Chinese groups known to have developed vaccines against the coronavirus.
(The shot being injected to me is from Sinopharm.)
While it has no EUA yet from the Philippine Food and Drug Administration, Sinopharm's product was granted compassionate use license in February for the Presidential Security Group. The permit is good for 10,000 doses.
Duterte last year said some members of his security team took unauthorized Sinopharm jabs.
"His first dose was covered by the compassionate use permit issued to the PSG by the FDA," Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said of Duterte's shot on Monday night.
Malacanang earlier said that Duterte, as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, may be entitled to use the Sinopharm vaccine under the said permit.
Sinopharm has two COVID-19 vaccine products, the first developed by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, an offshoot of the state-owned giant, and the second, by its subsidiary the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.
Sinopharm said in December that the Beijing institute vaccine was 79 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 diseases but it did not elaborate on the results or publish trial data. The product has been approved for general use in the United Arab Emirates and for emergency use in Argentina, Nepal, Egypt, Pakistan and Peru.
The second product, as of February this year, has been in phase 3 clinical trials in various countries since June. Participants in the first two phases of the product's trial were given two doses, 28 days apart.
Both vaccines were authorized for emergency use in China in July.
But as of Monday, the World Health Organization has yet to give emergency use approval for the vaccine candidates of Sinopharm, as well as that of Sinovac, another Chinese firm.
An emergency listing from the WHO is an indication to national regulators of a shot's safety and efficacy, and would allow the Chinese vaccines to be included in COVAX, the global program to provide vaccines mainly for poor countries.
So far, the WHO has given emergency approval to vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Moderna.
In the Philippines, COVID-19 vaccine products from the following have been cleared for emergency use by the country's drug regulator: Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Gamaleya Institute, Sinovac Biotech, Johnson & Johnson, and Bharat Biotech.
Supplies from AstraZeneca, Sinovac, and Gamaleya have already been delivered to the country, of which, those from the first two are already being rolled out.
The video posted on Go's social media account at 6:59 p.m. showed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III administering the COVID-19 vaccine on Duterte's left arm.
"Pumayag dok nya," Go said in a text message to reporters, referring to Duterte, who now joins leaders of Hungary, Pakistan, Serbia and the United Arab Emirates who, according to media reports, received Sinopharm's vaccine product.
(His doctor allowed it.)
Last year, Duterte said he preferred vaccines from China or Russia, as he alleged that Western drug groups were profiting from the coronavirus pandemic.
Duterte, who is a senior citizen and has underlying health issues, belongs to the groups vulnerable of developing severe symptoms of the respiratory disease. The said groups are part of the country's COVID-19 vaccination priorities.
Among the hardest hit in Asia, the Philippines has so far secured 4.040 million COVID-19 shots, majority of which are from Sinovac.
As of April 27, more than 1.8 million doses have been administered all over the country.
Earlier surveys revealed that many Filipinos were hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Vice President Leni Robredo and several others as far back as last year urged Duterte to get vaccinated in a bid to boost public confidence in the jabs.
The country's total recorded COVID-19 cases reached 1,062,225 on Monday, of which, 69,466 are active. The first case was confirmed on Jan. 30 last year in a Chinese woman who arrived from Wuhan, where the disease is believed to have first emerged in late 2019.
- with reports from South China Morning Post and Reuters
Video courtesy of Go's Facebook page