Russia claimed Tuesday to have developed a vaccine against COVID-19 which has infected and killed millions worldwide since early this year, offering “sustainable immunity against the coronavirus.
President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, a move hailed by Moscow as evidence of its scientific prowess.
Only last week, the World Health Organization urged Russia to follow established guidelines and go "through all the stages" necessary to develop a safe vaccine, saying the pandemic had seen an unprecedented mobilization of funding and research to rush through a vaccine that could protect billions of people worldwide.
Russian officials aid the final stage of clinical trials to test safety and efficacy was continuing. In Manila, an infectious disease expert said a vaccine against COVID-19 might be available in the Philippines by the first or second quarter of next year if phase 3 clinical trials would begin next month.
READ: Russia has developed 'first' coronavirus vaccine: Putin
This, after President Rodrigo Duterte expressed hope the country would be free from the virus by December.
According to Dr. Rontgene Solante, a member of vaccine experts panel of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, the Philippines was currently considering 5 to 6 vaccines.
"The current setup now is we’re still in the negotiating process, looking at possibility on how we can really collaborate with them and concrete in terms of the date," Solante said during an interview on ANC.
"More or less if we can start these clinical trials by September or October, we’ll be monitoring those involved in 3 to 6 months. Then probably first or second quarter of next year hopefully we can have the vaccine,” said Solante.
In making the announcement in Moscow, Putin said: "One of my daughters had this vaccine. I think in this sense she took part in the experiment."
Russia has been pushing hard to quickly develop a coronavirus vaccine and said earlier this month it hoped to launch mass production within weeks and turn out "several million" doses per month by next year.
Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev said proposals to conduct clinical trials and the possible local production of the vaccine had been submitted to local authorities.
READ: Russia aims to produce 'millions' of vaccine doses by 2021
The Philippine government has allotted an initial budget of P2.4 billion for COVID-19 vaccines, the Department of Health (DOH) said.
Solante said it would be preferable to have local clinical trials to "get the real data on safety and efficacy" among Filipino patients.
"There’s a big difference because you’re looking at different populations. There may be similarities in safety but we don’t know the efficacy seen abroad can also be replicated among our local patients," he said.
Solante also welcomed government's move to conduct house-to-house symptom checks during Metro Manila's 2-week modified lockdown.
"This will enhance the detection of those who are mild and symptomatic and will give us also an in-depth situation; how much of those who have symptoms and exposed to those with symptoms," he said.
"I think two weeks would be adequate enough that we can recalibrate our plans and somehow prepare for next surge of cases. Hopefully it will not occur. It’s a good 2-week lull because even with the 2-week MECQ we still have a lot of cases but hopefully we can get the impact of this 2-week lull on the next week or 2 weeks from now."
He added "open communication and cascading policies on the ground" were needed following reports that some local governments were reluctant to reintegrate virus patients into the community without negative confirmatory tests after their recovery.
The Philippines as of Monday logged 136,638 COVID-19 cases. Of this number, 66,186 are considered active cases, while 68,159 have recovered and 2,293 died.
READ: Indonesia starts human trials of China-made virus vaccine
On Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte volunteered to take the first shot when a vaccine from Russia becomes available as a gesture of trust and gratitude to Russian President Putin.
In public address Monday night in Davao, Duterte said he had accepted Russia's offer of its coronavirus vaccine, which he said would be available in the coming months, and expressed confidence that Filipinos would have a COVID- Free Christmas.
"When the vaccine arrives, I will have myself injected in public. Experiment on me first, that's fine with me," he said.
Duterte last month said he also asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to help the Philippines get priority access to a Covid-19 vaccine.
“I will tell President Putin, I have great trust in you. your studies in combatting COVID and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity,” Duterte said.
Duterte said the Russian President offered the vaccine to the Philippines for free and would even share its technology to produce the vaccine in the country. “From Russia, it would be free. I don’t know if America, you will have to pay for it actually. The ones who are working on COVID vaccine in America are Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, these are big companies. Whether or not America will give it free..I don’t have any idea yet,” the President said.
Duterte also said he would look for Russian partner here so that they could work expeditiously. “We are extremely grateful.”
Duterte, who's seeking to boost ties with Russia, added that Manila could assist Moscow in clinical trials and local production.
However, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Russian vaccine would have to pass the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests since there are laws to be followed before a vaccine is given to the Filipino people
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