Palace studying if Duterte can receive Sinopharm
This picture taken on November 23, 2020 shows a bottle reading "Vaccine COVID-19" next to Chinese National Pharmaceutical Sinopharm logo.
AFP/Joel Saget

Palace studying if Duterte can receive Sinopharm

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 2, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang’s legal team is studying whether President Duterte can get inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines developed by Chinese firm Sinopharm under a “compassionate use” arrangement.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed last month the compassionate use of 10,000 doses of Sinopharm jabs for members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

The approval came after it was revealed that some of Duterte’s security aides had been given COVID-19 shots as early as September last year even if the FDA had not yet approved any vaccine for local use.

Officials have defended the use of vaccines not yet authorized by the FDA, saying the President’s official security detail should not pose a threat to his health.

The country began its vaccination program yesterday, with the arrival on Sunday of 600,000 doses of donated COVID-19 vaccines developed by Sinovac of China.

Asked whether Duterte, who reportedly prefers Sinopharm vaccines, is covered by the compassionate use license, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the matter is still being studied.

“The legal department is still studying the issue, (whether) the President as commander-in-chief of the armed forces can have Sinopharm under compassionate use,” Roque said at a press briefing at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila yesterday.

“The study has no result yet and we will announce it once the results are available,” he added.

Roque claimed Sinopharm has applied for an emergency use authorization (EUA) but the FDA could not confirm this. “As of Friday, I have not seen anything. I’m not sure if they filed online,” FDA chief Eric Domingo said in a text message.

So far, the FDA had granted EUA to Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Sinovac.

Still under evaluation are the applications of Gamaleya-Sputnik of Russia and Bharat Biotech Covaxin.

Speaking to reporters at the Villamor Air Base last Sunday, Duterte said he would follow his doctor’s advice on which COVID-19 vaccine to take.

“We (people who are in their 70s) have to be careful. I have my own doctor. She thinks that another brand, I will not mention it, I will just wait for it. She is waiting for it,” the President said at his first press conference since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

“In the matter of getting the vaccine, it is to my advantage. It is to my self-interest that I should get one. No doubt about it. As to what brand, that’s the problem because it is left to the sound discretion of my doctor,” he added.

Asked to react to Vice President Leni Robredo’s statement that he should be the first to be inoculated to boost public confidence in the COVID-19 shots, Duterte said: “Siya man ‘yong apurado, siya ang mauna (She’s the one so eager so she should be the first). I cannot just decide. She’s young, I am not.”

“Why make a drama out of who should be the first? The problem is my doctor is waiting for something,” he added.

Roque said the President would inform the public if he experiences side effects after getting vaccinated.

“The President has promised that once he gets inoculated, it (would) be held publicly... Of course, we will inform you about the side effects if any on the President. But since he has not yet received a vaccine, that is moot and academic,” the Palace spokesman said.

“Let me clarify. What is stated in the Constitution is the President has the obligation to make public his medical condition only if he has a serious illness,” he added.

Duterte said health workers who do not want Sinovac vaccines can wait for the AstraZeneca shots expected within this month.

“They have a choice, it’s either... AstraZeneca or Sinovac. If they do not want Sinovac, they have to wait... I was assured that it would be coming within the next few days,” the President said.

Duterte stressed there would be no forced vaccination.

“Now, for those who do not want to be vaccinated, that’s OK with me. I have no problem. You do not want vaccines? OK, that’s your choice,” he added.

Sen. Bong Go said key government officials have asked to be vaccinated first so they could inspire confidence in the vaccines and not because they are priority.

“It’s not a question anymore if the President is willing to be vaccinated in public or not because we all want to be vaccinated. We are doing this not because we are the priority. We will do this to show the public that we should trust the vaccine,” Go said.

Go also expressed his willingness to be vaccinated in public together with Duterte to demonstrate the vaccines’ safety and efficacy. Go chairs the Senate committee on health and demography.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said they haven’t received any complaint from military personnel regarding their mandatory COVID-19 vaccination.

“It’s not true that many are complaining. If they don’t want Sinovac they will still be vaccinated by other brands. And if there are no free doses available, they will have to pay for them,” he told reporters in English and Filipino.

AFP chief of staff Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana has yet to get inoculated. – Sheila Crisostomo, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Romina Cabrera

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