Duterte takes Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine offer

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (left) thanked his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin for Russia’s offer of a pending coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available. POOL/AFP

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday accepted Russia’s offer of a pending coronavirus vaccine once it becomes available, volunteering to be the first to receive the injection as a gesture of friendship and trust.

“When the vaccine arrives, I will have myself injected in public. Experiment on me first, that’s fine with me,” Duterte told a briefing, as reported by Bloomberg. The Philippines is willing to lend a hand to Russia in clinical trials and local production, he said.

Expressing his gratitude to Moscow for its willingness to share its vaccine supply, Duterte said “I’m very happy because Russia is our friend . . . They said they will give the vaccine”, thanking Russian President Vladimir Putin by name, Nikkei Asian Review reported.

Russian ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev told reporters in an online press briefing on Friday that Moscow is ready to supply the Philippines with Covid-19 vaccines, adding that results of the trials are turning out “very promising”.

He said: “The Russian side is ready to closely cooperate with the Philippine partners in this field.

“We have three options for cooperation. First, clinical trials, if our Philippine partners consider it necessary. The second option – we are ready to supply the vaccine to the Philippines. The third option is local production of vaccines here on Philippine soil.

“It means that we are ready to combine our efforts, we are ready to make necessary investments together with our Philippine partners and we are ready to share our technologies simply because we want to build a robust partnership between our two nations.

“We don’t make promises. We make suggestions. Suggestions based on what we already have, and have already done.”

Khovaev also gave assurances that the vaccine being developed by Russia is “effective and safe”.

The vaccine was tested on several volunteers and Russian scientists, all of whom have “healed well”, he said.

“All of them were tested on these vaccines and all of them feel well . . . So, according to the analysis of our scientists, the results of the trials are very promising, very positive . . . The vaccine is effective and safe,” Khovaev said.

He added that his government is willing to comply with any necessary vaccine distribution procedure imposed by the Philippine government should Manila accept Russia’s offer.

“We fully understand that you Filipinos have your procedures in this field and all these procedures should be complied with. Of course, we comply with all domestic procedures in the Philippines,” Khovaev said.

He added that around 20 countries have already confirmed their interest to “closely cooperate” with Russia in terms of the Covid-19 vaccine.

In a message to reporters, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it “conveys its appreciation for Russia’s willingness to assist the Philippines in its fight against Covid-19, as well as its offer to supply the Sars-CoV-2 vaccine developed by NF Gamaleya of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation.”

The Philippine government has reached out to various Covid-19 vaccine developers from the US, Taiwan, China, and the UK for possible purchase once vaccines have been found and become available.

More than 100 potential Covid-19 vaccines are currently in development worldwide.

Earlier, Russia said it aims to launch mass production of a Covid-19 vaccine in September and turn out “several million” doses per month by next year.

But after Moscow announced plans to start swiftly producing Covid-19 jabs, the World Health Organisation urged the country to follow the established guidelines for producing safe and effective vaccines.