The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, confirmed that he has accepted the offer of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to provide the Russian vaccine against COVID-19 “free” when it is available and offered to be the first to be vaccinated publicly.
“When the vaccine arrives, I will inject it in public. Experiment with me, that’s fine with me. If it works with me, it will work with everyone,” said the Philippine president in a televised speech, hours before the Kremlin announced the approval of the formula.
Duterte was confident in the effectiveness of the vaccine being developed by Russia, which he said will be ready by December, when “The Philippines will be free of COVID-19 and can enjoy a peaceful Christmas.”
“I will tell President Putin that I have full confidence in their clinical studies and that the vaccine they are producing is good for all humanity,” said Philippines President Duterte, who in the past has made no secret of his admiration for the Russian president, whom he considered his “idol“.
Duterte assured that Russia has offered the vaccine “free of charge” and suggested that Filipinos could take part in clinical trials of the vaccine, which did not clarify its name or the laboratory behind it. He also did not give details about how Putin sent him the offer or the conditions of the agreement.
“They want to provide us with the vaccine, they have not said they pay for it. I think President Putin wants to help us for free,” Duterte insisted.
Although the Russian formula has already received approval, phase 3 of the tests will only begin this Wednesday, weeks after other trials in the United States, United Kingdom or China. Thus, it is possible that it is an agreement as part of the scientific studies.
In any case, the Russian government announced on Tuesday that 20 countries have placed purchase orders for a total of more than one billion doses, while industrial production will begin in September.
International health experts have expressed concern about the safety of the Russian vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute.
The Philippine president also assured a couple of weeks ago that Chinese President Xi Jinping also promised him that the Philippines will be one of the first countries to benefit from some of the three most advanced Chinese vaccines in clinical trials.
Duterte has reoriented his foreign policy towards China and Russia, to the detriment of the United States, his historical partner since the end of World War II, and insisted that if the United States achieves a vaccine, “it will expect financial compensation for it.”
The Philippines leads the COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia and yesterday registered almost 7,000 new cases – a new daily record since the start of the pandemic, to reach 136’638 infections, 66’186 active, including 2’293 deaths.
Due to the increase in cases, Duterte ordered at the beginning of the month the re-confinement for 15 days of Manila and four neighboring provinces – which account for a quarter of the Philippine population and almost 70% of GDP – to contain the contagion curve, in continuous ascent since March.