Asia

Philippines eyes clinical trials of Russian Covid-19 vaccine in October

MANILA (REUTERS) – The Philippines plans to start clinical trials of a Russian coronavirus vaccine in October, with President Rodrigo Duterte expected to be inoculated as early as May next year, the presidential spokesman said on Thursday (Aug 13).

Mr Harry Roque, Mr Duterte’s spokesman, made the announcement a day after Philippine scientists met representatives of the vaccine developer, research facility Gamaleya, to discuss trials and information about the inoculation.

Russia on Tuesday became the first country to grant regulatory approval for a Covid-19 vaccine, to be named “Sputnik V” in homage to the Soviet Union’s launch of the world’s first satellite.

But its decision to grant approval before completing trials has raised concerns among some experts, who fear it may be putting national prestige before safety. 

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told Reuters that all clinical trials would need to go through the regulatory process. 

Phase three clinical trials in the Philippines are due to run from October to March 2021, after a panel of vaccine experts completes its review on Russia’s phase one and two trials in September, Mr Roque told a media briefing. 

Mr Duterte is keen to access a vaccine, and in July made a plea to China to make the Philippines a priority if it develops one. 

The President has pledged that the Philippines, which suffered its biggest economic contraction in nearly three decades, would be “back to normal” by December even as it has been reporting record numbers of daily coronavirus infections since July. 

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 143,000 people and killed 2,404 in the Philippines.

A strict coronavirus lockdown recently reintroduced in and around the capital Manila is unlikely to be extended beyond Aug 18, the presidential spokesman said. 

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