MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte will take a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese state firm Sinopharm, even after he told Beijing to take back the doses that it donated, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Duterte took a dose from the 1,000 Sinopharm jabs that China donated, even though the vaccine has yet to be cleared for emergency use in the Philippines. On Wednesday, he apologized to medical experts and said he told China's envoy to withdraw the donated doses.
"Hindi ibabalik 'yong pang-second dose ni Presidente para matapos niya ang second dose," Palace spokesman Harry Roque said.
(The shot for the second dose of the President will not be returned so that he can complete the second dose.)
Roque earlier said the dose that Duterte took was covered by the Presidential Security Group's compassionate use license for 10,000 Sinopharm doses.
The PSG secured the permit months after some of its members took unauthorized doses of the Sinopharm vaccine last year.
The 1,000 Sinopharm shots that China donated were "only intended for use by the PSG hospital," where Duterte was vaccinated, said Roque.
The Philippines did not ask China to donate the 1,000 Sinopharm shots, he added.
"Alam n'yo sa donasyon, it is found in all legal systems, that's an act of beneficence, generosity of the donor. Wala naman pong usapan na requirement para mag-donate,"
(You know, when it comes to donation, it is found in all legal systems, that's an act of beneficence, generosity of the donor, There was no discussion that donating would be a requirement.)
Three firms have applied for emergency use authorization for Sinopharm. However, they have yet to submit required documents, said the Food and Drug Administration.
Experts from the World Health Organization have voiced "very low confidence" in data provided by Sinopharm on its COVID-19 vaccine regarding the risk of serious side effects in some patients, according to a Reuters report.
Asked why Duterte's doctors recommended that he use Sinopharm, Roque said, "That's for his doctors to answer."
"Pero kaya nga po sabi ni Presidente ibalik muna, hayaan na muna iyong proseso ng EUA– for which he also apologized," said the official.
(But that is why the President ordered that the shots be returned for now, let the EUA process roll.)
The President, 76, has underlying health issues and is vulnerable to developing severe symptoms of the respiratory disease. Persons with comorbities are among 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 ensure equitable access to vaccines.
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.
– With a report from Reuters
Video courtesy of PTV
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