MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte decided to get inoculated with the Sinopharm jab because the process of giving the Chinese vaccine clearance for emergency use has been “grossly delayed”, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark a day after Duterte received a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company Sinopharm upon his physician’s advice.
Last March, Roque said Duterte would wait for the emergency use authorization (EUA) of Sinopharm before getting vaccinated.
Duterte, however, on Monday night received his first dose covered by the compassionate use permit issued to the Presidential Security Group (PSG) hospital by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
On March 19, FDA Director-General Eric Domingo said Sinopharm has not yet submitted an official application for EUA but two local distributors have manifested their intent to apply for EUA.
“What changed is the fact that the EUA has been grossly delayed. And that’s why the President, when the Chinese government donated, opted to have his vaccination,” Roque said in a press briefing in Parañaque City.
Roque noted that Duterte’s jab came from an additional 1,000 Sinopharm doses donated by China to the Philippines.
China initially committed to donating around 10,000 Sinopharm doses for members of the PSG. However, they have yet to arrive in the country.
“I suppose the 1,000 forms part of the 10,000 compassionate use permit issued by the FDA ‘no. But the 1,000 is a further donation from the government of China,” he said.
If China had not donated an additional 1,000 Sinopharm doses, Roque said Duterte may not be vaccinated until now.
Vaccine czar Carlito Gavlez Jr., in the same briefing, said the 1,000 Sinopharm doses came together with the donated 500,000 Sinovac doses.
“I believe yung 1,000 na ‘yun is same flight that we have yung 500,000 na donation (I believe the 1,000 came with the same flight that carried the 500,000 donation),” Galvez said.
Roque emphasized the need for the manufacturer to send over an agent to facilitate the EUA application.
“Hindi pa dumarating po yung 10,000 ng PSG. So kung hindi po nag-donate ang Chinese government, hindi rin po makakapag bakuna ang PSG. Hindi ko po alam kung bakit hindi dumarating yung 10,000. Puwede naman pong bayaran ng PSG pero I can only surmise na mas kinakailangan talaga magkaroon ng agent ang Sinopharm here for the purpose of applying for EUA (The 10,000 doses of the PSG have yet to arrive. So if the Chinese government did not donate, the PSG would not have been able to get vaccinated. So I don’t know why the 10,000 haven’t arrived. The PSG can pay for it but I can only surmise that it’s necessary to have a Sinopharm agent here for the purpose of applying for EUA),” he said.
He also rejected criticism that Duterte’s Sinopharm jab was “illegal” or “smuggled.”
“Hindi po illegal ang paggamit ni Presidente dahil may compassionate use na in-issue para sa PSG hospital at hindi po smuggled ang ginamit ni Presidente dahil ito po ay donated by Chinese government (The President’s use of the vaccine is not illegal because there is a compassionate use permit issued for the PSG hospital and it’s not smuggled because these were donated by the Chinese government),” he said.
No side effects
Roque said Duterte did not experience any side effects after getting inoculated with Sinopharm.
“Wala po akong nakitang adverse reaction kasi pagkatapos niya magpabakuna e pumunta siya agad dun sa pagpupulong namin (I did not notice any adverse reaction because after he got vaccinated, we went straight to our meeting),” he said.
Duterte is expected to receive his second dose of Sinopharm 21 to 28 days after his first dose.
“I understand na ang (that the) choice ni Presidente (of the President) was guided also by his doctors. And I can only surmise na (that) it’s the platform na inactivated vaccine because this has been in use for the past 140 years at least,” he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines an inactivated vaccine as those that take the disease-carrying virus or bacterium, or one very similar to it, and inactivate or kill it using chemicals, heat, or radiation.
Meanwhile, Roque allayed concerns that Duterte’s decision to receive Sinopharm would affect Filipinos’ vaccine hesitancy for other Covid-19 vaccine brands.
“I don’t think it has any effect on vaccine confidence kasi nakikita naman ng taongbayan na basta the best bakuna is the one that’s available no (because the nation can see that the best vaccine is the one available),” he said.
Galvez said Duterte may have opted to get Sinopharm because it is being used by leaders in China and the Middle East.
“Itong Sinopharm, ito yung ginagamit ng mga leaders sa China at ‘yan din po ang ginamit ng mga leaders sa area ng Middle East (Sinopharm was used by leaders in China and leaders in the Middle East),” Galvez said.
He also assured that Sinopharm, like Sinovac, is an inactivated type of vaccine and therefore “co-equal” in terms of safety. (PNA)