After Duterte plea, China says it will prioritize Philippines' vaccine needs
In this Oct. 20, 2016 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte is accompanied by Chinese President Xi Jinping during his arrival at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China.
Toto Lozano/Presidential Photo
After Duterte plea, China says it will prioritize Philippines' vaccine needs
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - July 29, 2020 - 4:43pm

MANILA, Philippines — China said it would give priority access to the Philippines once it successfully develops a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Beijing gave its assurance after President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned in his fifth State of the Nation Address that he “made a plea” to Chinese President Xi Jinping to prioritize the Philippines when providing a COVID-19 vaccine.

The president did not say how he sent his plea to Xi, although he has been effusive with praise and appreciation for China in the months since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the Philippines.

“The Philippines is a friendly close neighbor and we will give priority to its needs once we succeed in developing a vaccine,” Wang Wenbin, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said in a briefing.

Wang said the health crisis has become a “new highlight” in the diplomatic ties between the two nations.

“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China and the Philippines have been standing together with mutual assistance, turning anti-epidemic cooperation into a new highlight in bilateral relations,” he said.

The coronavirus pandemic which emerged in China late last year is showing no signs of slowing down in the Philippines, with the national caseload reaching over 83,000 Tuesday.

Vaccine 'around the corner'?

Duterte is pinning his hopes on a coronavirus vaccine, which he claimed would be “around the corner.”

But while laboratories across the world are racing to develop a vaccine to help end the health crisis that has infected over 16 million people globally, the World Health Organization said that COVID-19 vaccinations cannot be expected until early 2021.

Chinese biopharmaceutical companies are responsible for three of the five vaccines that have moved into Phase 3 trials, according to the country's Food and Drug Administration director general Eric Domingo. 

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, "Phase 3 trials are conducted to confirm and expand on safety and effectiveness results from Phase 1 and 2 trials, to compare the drug to standard therapies for the disease or condition being studied, and to evaluate the overall risks and benefits of the drug."

These trials involve large groups, from 1,000 to 3,000 patients, of people with a particular disease. 

The government’s task force on pandemic response earlier approved the country’s participation in clinical trials conducted by Chinese firms.

The Philippines also recently joined the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility, which aims to help ensure fair and equitable access to coronavirus vaccines. Under the COVAX facility, vaccines will be initially delivered equally to all participating countries, initially prioritizing health care workers, then expanding to cover 20% of the population.

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