MANILA — A day before Russia announced that it has already approved its COVID-19 vaccine, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he was willing to be “experimented on” with it to prove it is safe and effective.
“Ako, pagdating ng bakuna, in public, para walang satsat 'yan, in public, magpa-injection ako. Ako 'yung maunang ma-eksperimentuhan. Okay para sa akin,” Duterte said, after thanking Russian President Vladimir Putin for offering vaccines to the Philippines.
(Once the vaccine arrives, in public, I will ask to be injected. They can experiment on me first. That’s okay with me.)
But at 75, and the fact that he is the President of the Philippines, can he really take this risk?
Apparently, yes, but he might not be the first in line, according to Dr. Nina Gloriani, University of the Philippines College of Public Health professor and head of the Department of Science and Technology’s vaccine technical panel.
“Sa clinical trials, meron tayong priority groups to immunize. Sa una. Kasi, hindi natin kilala itong vaccine. Yung mauuna, 18 years old to 59,” Gloriani said, referring to vaccines in general.
(In clinical trials, we have priority groups for immunization. That's at the start, because we don’t know this vaccine. The first ones to get it are those 18 years old to 59.)
“'Pag medyo ayos na yung resulta doon at successful, safe and can protect, so, pwede na tayo magbakuna sa special groups na tinatawag,” she added.
(Once the result shows that it is successful, safe and can protect, we can now immunize special groups.)
Special groups include senior citizens, children, people with pre-existing conditions, and those with compromised immune systems.
Gloriani said all those who will volunteer for vaccine clinical trials will be subjected to the inclusion and exclusion checklist to see if they qualify.
“'Pag lumabas sya sa exclusion, hindi sya pe-pwede. Pero kung papasa sya, kasi may checklist yun, why not?” she said of Duterte.
“I think pwede naman pero dadaan sa proseso.”
(If he is listed under those who will be excluded, then he can’t. But if he passes - because we have a checklist - why not? I think it’s possible, but it will have to go through a process.)
While Russia claims it now has the first COVID-19 vaccine in the world, some have questioned the process it underwent since it was approved in less than two months.
News reports said the vaccine from Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute was approved by its health ministry before Phase III human trials, which involves large-scale testing for the efficacy of the vaccine.
Other vaccine frontrunners such as the United States' Moderna vaccine and the United Kingdom’s Oxford vaccine have yet to get government approval while undergoing Phase III trials.
Gloriani assured the public that the Philippine vaccine panel will carefully study all vaccines that will apply for clinical trials in the Philippines.
She explained that clinical trials in the country would help check if a vaccine is effective for Filipinos since there are “ethnicity or genetic differences in immune responses.”
There are also other side effects and immune responses that are not just based on genetics, but also nutrition and other factors, she said.