Russian coronavirus vaccine: backtrack from the Philippine president

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MANILA | The Philippines will begin large-scale testing of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine in October, but President Rodrigo Duterte will not be inoculated until he is declared safe, his spokesman said Thursday.

• Read also: Philippine President volunteers to test Russian vaccine

Mr Duterte had offered to serve as a guinea pig, saying he had “great confidence” in the vaccine, despite growing skepticism from many international scientists.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte should be vaccinated no earlier than May 1, a few weeks after the end of phase III, the last stage of clinical trials before approval.

It is in April that this vaccine, developed by the Russian Research Center Gamaleïa, should be approved by the Philippine ministry responsible for food and drugs.

“On May 1, the presidential security group could authorize him (to receive the vaccine), once all the necessary tests have been carried out,” Roque said.

Moscow said this week that it had developed the “first” vaccine against COVID-19 providing “lasting immunity” and that it has entered the final phase of tests in which more than 2,000 people will participate in total.

Roque said Filipino experts will study the results next month on the results of Russia’s phase I and II clinical trials before phase III trials begin in the Philippines.

“We will do it at the same time as Russia,” Roque said.

Filipino experts from the Department of Science and Technology met with Gamaleïa officials on Wednesday to discuss the scope and protocols for clinical trials to be conducted in the Philippines.

The vaccine was baptized “Sputnik V” (V for vaccine, editor’s note), in reference to the Russian politico-scientific victory of putting the satellite of the same name into orbit in the middle of the Cold War.

The Philippines accepted the Russian offer to participate in this testing phase as well as in its production.

For Anna Lisa Ong-Lim, professor of infectious diseases at the University of the Philippines, the government timetable for the vaccine to be made available by May is “very optimistic”.

The country is also due to begin clinical trials of the Japanese antiviral drug Avigan on August 17, intended to treat coronavirus patients.

This country of approximately 107 million inhabitants continues to fight against the coronavirus epidemic which has already infected more than 147,500 people and killed more than 2,400.

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