World News

Rodrigo Duterte could be administered Russian vaccine in May, Manila says

By Elizabeth Shim   |   Aug. 13, 2020 at 10:34 AM
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has welcomed the development of a new Russian vaccine for the novel coronavirus. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI

Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is pinning his hopes on Russia's new coronavirus vaccine, and could undergo an injection in May 2021.

The 75-year-old Duterte, who has welcomed the development of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, wants to undergo an injection if the drug is proven safe by March, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said, according to ABS-CBN News on Thursday.

"We expect the Russian vaccine to be registered by April, which means that it is only by May 1, 2021, that our president can be inoculated with the drug," Roque said.

Duterte's willingness to undergo a vaccine that has yet to go through Phase 3 trials comes amid a health crisis in the Philippines. The country has confirmed more than 143,000 cases of COVID-19, the highest among Southeast Asian nations.

Manila confirmed this week it would participate in the Phase 3 trial for the vaccine, involving anywhere from 300 to 3,000 patient volunteers.

According to Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow, the vaccine is approved for emergency use only. As Manila prepares to offer human test subjects, experts say the vaccine, potentially unsafe and ineffective, comes with high risks.

Australian public health experts Kylie Quinn and Holly Seale said in a joint editorial on Wednesday Russia has offered a vaccine, but has yet to supply data that indicates it could protect people.

"If a vaccine is released but side effects emerge, the consequences include both the health impacts and deterioration in trust from our community," the analysts said.

As coronavirus cases rise in the Philippines, Manila has been coping with incidents of COVID-19 discrimination against Philippine overseas workers.

The Philippine Embassy in Thailand condemned a Thai newspaper on Monday, after the paper, Thai Rath, stated in a headline the Filipino teachers had arrived from the "land of COVID-19."

"The characterization is inappropriate, insensitive, and unhelpful," the embassy said in its letter, according to Rappler.