Philippines in talks with Russian vaccine maker as it records highest daily COVID-19 deaths in nearly a month
MANILA: Philippine scientists were set on Wednesday (Aug 12) to meet representatives of the Russian research facility that developed a coronavirus vaccine, to discuss possible participation in clinical trials and access to its research data.
The move comes as the Philippines on Wednesday reported 93 more COVID-19 fatalities, the highest daily increase in the Southeast Asian country since Jul 18. Its COVID-19 death toll now stands at 2,404.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has lauded the vaccine and offered to be "injected in public" with the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, to allay public fears about its safety.
Russia on Tuesday became the world's first country to grant regulatory approval for a COVID-19 vaccine, to be named "Sputnik V" in homage to the world's first satellite launched by the former Soviet Union.
Russia's decision to grant approval before completing trials has raised concerns among some experts, who fear it may be putting national prestige before safety.
READ: Alarm among global health experts after Russia's COVID-19 vaccine set to be approved without full trial data
Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said Philippine experts would meet representatives of the state research facility Gamaleya to discuss trials and would request a "complete dossier" on the vaccine.
"We will see if the allegations are true," she told a regular briefing, referring to concerns that its approval was hasty.
"That is why were talking with them to understand this vaccine," Vergeire said, adding that local regulatory approval is required for trials to take place.
The Philippines has among Asia's highest coronavirus case numbers. It reported 4,444 new infections on Wednesday, two days after having hit a daily record of 6,958 infections. The country's tally of confirmed cases now stands at 143,749.
Areas in and around the capital have returned to a strict lockdown to contain the spread.
Duterte is keen to access a vaccine and in July made a plea to China to make the Philippines a priority if it develops one.
The Philippines will conduct nine months of clinical trials of anti-flu drug Avigan, manufactured by a subsidiary of Japan's Fujifilm Holdings, starting with 100 doses to administer to patients in four Manila hospitals, Vergerie said.
Several drugmakers globally are conducting large-scale, advanced human trials of their potential COVID-19 vaccines, each with tens of thousands of volunteers.
The Russian vaccine's approval comes before trials that would normally involve thousands of people, commonly known as a Phase III trial. Such trials are usually considered essential precursors for a vaccine's approval.