Duterte Apologizes for Getting Unauthorized Vaccine, Sends Doses Back to China

The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved the Sinopharm vaccine donated by the Chinese government for emergency use among the general population.
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Duterte Apologizes for Getting Unauthorized Vaccine, Sends Doses Back to China Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque III injects President Rodrigo Duterte with a shot of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in Manila, May 3, 2021.
Handout, Presidential Communications Operations Office

President Rodrigo Duterte apologized to the Philippine public after he was criticized for being inoculated this week with an unauthorized COVID-19 vaccine which food and drug regulators have not approved for local emergency use.

In a late-night address on Wednesday, Duterte said he told the Chinese envoy to Manila to take back the 1,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine that Beijing had donated to the Philippines. The government had released photos of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III giving Duterte a shot of the vaccine on Monday.

“So we are sorry. You are right. We are wrong,” Duterte said. “By tomorrow or the next day, Sinopharm will be gone."

“We accept responsibility. I myself had already been injected upon my doctor’s suggestion. Anyway, it’s my life,” he said. 

The Food and Drug Administration had permitted the Sinopharm vaccine donated by the Chinese government for “compassionate use” but the agency has not approved it for emergency-use among the general population. 

“You withdraw all Sinopharm vaccines, 1,000 of them. I said just send the Sinovac that everyone is using,” Duterte said, referring to another Chinese-produced vaccine, millions of doses of which have been sent to the Philippines.

Duterte said he received the Sinopharm shot because his doctors had advised him to get vaccinated. 

Despite Duterte’s order to get rid of the vaccine, spokesman Harry Roque said on Thursday that the president would receive his second Sinopharm dose in three to four weeks.

Duterte acknowledged that opposition politicians, including Sen. Leila de Lima, were right to question him about receiving the Sinopharm vaccine.

“Is it too much to ask for our president to obey the law,” de Lima asked in a Twitter post on Tuesday. “There are other vaccines available, but he had to use the ones that were smuggled.”

In January, Duterte quashed investigations to determine how members of his bodyguard team had received the Sinopharm vaccine in September and October 2020 when no vaccine had been approved or procured in the country.

“To Congress, do not tinker with the PSG. Don’t force my hand,” Duterte said in a nationally televised address at that time, referring to the Presidential Security Group.

He said the guards received the Sinopharm vaccine because they wanted to protect him and themselves from the coronavirus disease.

In his Wednesday evening address, Duterte also ordered police to arrest people who do not wear their facemasks properly during the pandemic.

“My orders to the police are, those who are not working their masks properly, in order to protect the public … arrest them and detain them, investigate them to determine why they are doing it,” Duterte said.

“If I don’t not tighten the rules, nothing will happen. I’m having a hard time here,” he said. “Our funds are running out and yet you continue to act recklessly. You will really end up at the police station.”

Millions of doses

Chinese firm Sinovac has a contract with the government to supply vaccines. It has delivered 3.5 million doses and another 1.5 million are expected to be delivered this week, according to Philippine health officials.

The total doses of vaccines already delivered to the Philippines is slightly more than 4 million, of which about half have been administered, officials said. 

Along with the 3.5 million Sinovac doses, the Philippines has received 525,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility and 15,000 doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine.

On Thursday, the health department reported 6,637 new COVID-19 infections and 191 deaths – pushing the totals to more than 1 million infections and nearly 18,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

On April 27, the government banned travelers from India where a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 originated. In a news release on Thursday, the health department reported that five people who had traveled from India in April tested positive for COVID-19 but made no mention about the variant.

The strain, known as the B.1.617 Variant, was reported in October and has led to a massive surge of cases in India in recent weeks.

India has recorded more than 21 million infections – second only to the United States – and more than 230,000 deaths, according to disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. In the past day, South Asia’s largest nation recorded more than 400,000 new infections.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.


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