Philippines eyes October trials for Russian COVID-19 vaccine; Duterte to get jab when vaccine safety guaranteed

Philippines eyes October trials for Russian COVID-19 vaccine; Duterte to get jab when vaccine safety guaranteed

Free COVID-19 swab testing in Manila
A health worker conducts a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) swab testing at a gymnasium in Navotas City, Metro Manila, Philippines, Aug 7, 2020. (REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)

MANILA: The Philippines plans to launch clinical trials for a Russian COVID-19 vaccine in October, with President Rodrigo Duterte expected to be inoculated as early as May next year, the presidential spokesman said on Thursday (Aug 13).

Harry Roque, Duterte's spokesman, made the announcement a day after Philippine scientists met with representatives of the vaccine developer, research facility Gamaleya, to discuss trials and information about the inoculation.

Roque said Duterte will not receive the inoculation until regulators guarantee its safety, adding that he was scheduled to receive the vaccine no earlier than May 1.

"May 1 is when the PSG (presidential security group) may allow him, once all requisite tests have been finished," said Roque.

Phase three clinical trials in the Philippines are due to run from October to March 2021, after a panel of vaccine experts completes its review on Russia's phase one and two trials in September, Roque told a media briefing.

Philippines' Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the vaccine in April.

READ: Philippines' Duterte has 'huge trust' in Russia COVID-19 vaccine, volunteers for trial

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 Soviet Union’s launch of the world’s first satellite.

But its decision to grant approval before completing trials has raised concerns among some experts, who fear it may be putting national prestige before safety.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told Reuters that all clinical trials would need to go through the regulatory process.

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 president has pledged that the Philippines, which suffered its biggest economic contraction in nearly three decades, would be "back to normal" by December even as it has been reporting record numbers of daily coronavirus infections since July.

On Thursday, the country reported 4,002 more COVID-19 infections and 23 additional deaths. The novel coronavirus has infected 147,526 people - the highest in Southeast Asia - and killed 2,426 in the Philippines.

A strict coronavirus lockdown recently reintroduced in and around the capital Manila is unlikely to be extended beyond Aug 18, the presidential spokesman said.

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Source: Agencies/kv/jt