MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he has asked an envoy of China to send the Philippines COVID-19 shots from Beijing-based Sinovac Biotech, instead of jabs from Chinese state firm Sinopharm.
Duterte this week received a dose from a batch of 1,000 Sinopharm doses that officials said China sent. However, according to him, experts said the vaccine has yet to be studied in the Philippines.
He said he told China's ambassador to "withdraw all Sinopharm vaccines, 1,000 of them." The Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines is Huang Xilian.
"Huwag ka na lang magpadala ng Sinopharm dito para walang gulo. Sabi ko, ibigay mo lang sa amin ‘yong Sinovac na ginagamit sa lahat," Duterte said.
(Don't send us Sinopharm anymore, so there will be no trouble. I said just give us Sinovac that is used everywhere.)
The 1,000 Sinopharm doses set to be recalled "would not make a dent doon sa supply," Duterte added.
The Philippine drug regulator has yet to clear Sinopharm's COVID-19 shot for emergency use.
In February, the Food and Drug Administration issued a "compassionate use license" for the use of 10,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses by the PSG.
Sinovac, meanwhile, has an emergency use authorization in the Philippines.
Addressing critics of his vaccine choice, Duterte said: "We are sorry that we committed the things that you are criticizing us for. We accept responsibility."
The World Health Organization has yet to approve Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines for emergency use.
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 accounts for the bulk of the 4.04 million COVID-19 shots that the Philippines has received so far. 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
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Video courtesy of PTV