MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday defended his decision to take a COVID-19 vaccine that has yet to be cleared for emergency use by saying, "This is my life."
Duterte on Monday took a jab of the vaccine developed by Chinese state firm Sinopharm. The Philippine drug regulator has yet to approve this for emergency use, although it allowed the President's security team to use 10,000 Sinopharm doses.
"Iyong itinurok sa akin (the vaccine injected into me)... it's the decision of my doctor. And all things said, this is my life," he said in a taped speech.
The Sinopharm jab that Duterte took is covered by the compassionate use license for the Presidential Security Group, his aides earlier said.
"We are sorry that we committed the things that you are criticizing us for. We accept responsibility," Duterte said, apparently addressing critics of his vaccine choice.
The President said he told a Chinese ambassador to "withdraw" 1,000 Sinopharm shots that Beijing sent to Manila because these need further study. He did not say when the jabs were delivered.
"We are sorry. You are right, we are wrong. Ang Sinopharm maybe tomorrow or the following day, wala na ‘yan. I made it a personal request," said Duterte.
(Sinopharm, maybe tomorrow or the following day, it will be gone.)
Duterte last year said some members of his security team took unauthorized Sinopharm jabs.
Duterte has said he preferred vaccines from China or Russia, as he alleged that Western drug groups were profiting from the coronavirus pandemic.
The President, 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.
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.
Sinovac makes up the bulk of the 4.040 million COVID-19 shots that the Philippines has so far received. Authorities have administered 2.065 million of these doses.
Among the hardest hit in Asia, the Philippines aims to vaccinate up to 70 million people or two-thirds of its population this year.
Video courtesy of PTV