President Rodrigo Duterte has asked the Chinese government to withdraw the remaining 1,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines it has donated after medical experts rebuked his decision to get the jab despite the lack of an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Authority.
"It’s a criticism, it’s a critique and we accept it. I accept it because I want to be a better [example] -- I need to be prim and proper," Duterte said in a public address late Wednesday evening.
"We are sorry that we committed the things that you are criticizing us for. We accept responsibility....We are sorry. You are right, we are wrong. Sinopharm, maybe tomorrow or the following day all the stock will already be gone," he added.
The President said he spoke with Chinese ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian earlier in the day and relayed his decision to have the Sinopharm doses withdrawn.
"So here’s the deal: I told the ambassador we were criticized because Sinopharm did not undergo examination, so I told him to just withdraw it. You withdraw all Sinopharm vaccines, all 1,000 of them. Do not send Sinopharm here anymore so there is no ruckus. Just give me Sinovac which is used for everyone," he said.
"If it will be the cause of all this noise, let us just withdraw the Sinopharm vaccines and wait for Sinovac and the others. Anyway, it is just 1,000 doses. It will not make a dent on the supply," Duterte added.
The President said he acknowledges the concerns raised by medical experts who raised concerns that others might follow his lead and use unregistered vaccines.
He, however, stressed it was legal for him to get the Sinopharm jab because it was covered by a compassionate use permit from the FDA.
"I got the jab. It’s the decision of my doctor. Anyway, it’s my life...But maybe it’s not acceptable to them [experts/critics] but it’s legal actually. When the government allowed it to be used for compassionate use, that itself was an authority for people to be injected, but only a few people got injected [with Sinopharm]," he said.
"My doctor said Sinopharm because of the good record outside of the Philippines, and all of the Chinese officials Sinopharm," the President added.
In December last year, Duterte disclosed that members of the Presidential Security Group were inoculated with Sinopharm.
However, it was only in February this year that the FDA granted compassionate use permit for the 10,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine.
The same compassionate permit was used for Duterte’s inoculation, FDA director general Eric Domingo said.
The FDA is investigating the PSG's use of Sinopharm vaccines even without compassionate use permit, but the PSG has not released information until now, Domingo added.
Meanwhile, the government has approved the emergency use authorization for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, Domingo said Wednesday.
In an online forum, Domingo said the FDA took about nine days to review the documents in connection with Moderna’s EUA application.
He said the vaccine will be administered to persons aged 18 and above.
"After rigorous and thorough review by regulatory and medical experts using the currently available published and unpublished data, FDA is granting an emergency use authorization... for the COVID-19 vaccine Moderna," Domingo said.
“The benefit of using the vaccine outweighs the known and potential risks. The interim data from the ongoing Phase 3 trials as published showed that the vaccine has an overall efficacy rate of over 94 percent in preventing COVID-19,” he added.
The government has placed an initial order of 200,000 COVID-19 vaccines from the American pharmaceutical giant. It expects the doses to be delivered by next month.
The government hopes to get some 20 million more Moderna vaccine doses that will be split between public and private inoculation programs.
While the government aims to vaccinate up to 70 million people by the end of the year to reach herd immunity, only about 2 million doses have been administered due to the limited supply of vaccines, data from the government showed.
Aside from the Moderna shipment, the government hopes to receive 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines coming from Pfizer in May, and 500,000 vaccines from Russia’s Gamaleya Institute within the year.
Last week, vaccine czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government procured some 13 million doses from Moderna while the private sector ordered 7 million doses.
Senator Manny Pacquiao, meanwhile, has asked US President Joseph Biden, through a letter, to facilitate the immediate release of the 20 million doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine.
Moderna had earlier said it expects to increase global production of its COVID-19 vaccine to up to 3 billion doses in 2022.
Reaching the 3 billion mark will depend on the mix of its mRNA vaccine and potentially lower doses of Moderna's pediatric vaccine and variant booster shots, the company said.
The company also raised its supply forecast for this year to between 800 million and 1 billion doses.
Meanwhile, the Department of Health assured the city government of Parañaque Wednesday that more COVID-19 vaccines are on the way after several people did not get vaccinated even after lining up for the rollout of Russia’s Sputnik V.
In an online briefing, DOH spokesperson and Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said a number of people flocked to the Sputnik V rollout even though the Parañaque government announced that only those with a schedule or who were part of the vaccination master list would get a jab.
The build-up caused tensions to rise, with some residents complaining that they were “left hanging” when the doses ran out.
When the Parañaque government saw yesterday that they had extra doses aside from those masterlisted, they gave more away. However, they did not expect that so many people would come, Vergeire said.
“Don’t worry, there are more vaccines on the way and the Parañaque government also has stocks. If it’s not Sputnik V, we still have other vaccines that are in stock in our local governments, and those who are eligible will be vaccinated,” Vergeire said in Filipino.
The initial batch of 15,000 Sputnik V doses were distributed to five Metro Manila cities that could meet the vaccine’s temperature storage requirement.
Vergeire said a total of 2,634 individuals were vaccinated with the Russian-made jab in Parañaque, Manila, and Makati on Tuesday.
The DOH said no serious adverse effects were reported by those vaccinated with the Russian-made vaccine.