Palace defends Duterte use of Sinopharm jab

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MALACAÑANG on Tuesday denied that President Rodrigo Duterte was inoculated with a smuggled and illegal coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine, which has not yet been cleared for emergency use in the Philippines.

On Monday night, Duterte received his first dose of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to grant it an emergency use authorization. It was Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd who administered the vaccine to the President.

In his virtual press briefing, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. insisted that China’s Sinopharm vaccine that Duterte took was “covered by compassionate use.”

He also said that the Sinopharm doses were not smuggled illegally into the country because it was part of the extra 1,000 doses donated by the Chinese government

“It’s covered by compassionate use. So, as far as the President is concerned, he did not violate any laws because, precisely, it was administered by the PSG (Presidential Security Group) Hospital although physically administered by the Health Secretary himself,” Roque said.

“Covered po yan ng compassionate use permit so wala pong nalabag ang ating presidente at ‘yung supply naman eh nanggaling sa (So it was covered by permit for compassionate use so our President did not violate any laws and that the supply of the vaccine came from the) additional 1,000 donation ng Chinese government to the Philippine government,” he added.

In February, the FDA gave Duterte’s security team a compassionate use license for 10,000 Sinopharm shots.

As commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Duterte is entitled to use these doses, according to Roque.

He also echoed the statement of Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go who said that the President took the Sinopharm vaccine based on the prescription of his physician.

“I understand na ang choice ni President was guided also by his doctors and I can only surmise na it’s the platform na inactivated vaccine because this has been in use for the past 140 years at least,” Roque said.

The Palace official also said that what Duterte was trying to do was boost the vaccine confidence in the country.

“Magpabakuna na ang lahat habang may makukuhang bakuna (Everyone should get vaccinated while we still have vaccines),” Roque said, quoting Duterte.

He also dismissed criticisms that getting inoculated with a different vaccine would have a negative impact on the population’s vaccine confidence.

“Nakikita naman ng taong bayan na basta the best bakuna is the one available (The people can see that the best vaccine is the one available),” Roque said, adding that the FDA would not approve any vaccine without the recommendation from the Vaccine Expert Panel of the Department of Science and Technology.

Sinopharm, developed by Beijing Biological Products Institute, a unit of Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group, is said to be 79.34 percent effective. The product has been approved for general use in the United Arab Emirates and for emergency use in Argentina, Nepal, Egypt, Pakistan and Peru.

In the Philippines, Covid-19 vaccine products from the following have been cleared for emergency use by the country’s drug regulator: Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Gamaleya Institute, Sinovac Biotech, Johnson & Johnson, and Bharat Biotech.

So far, the country has received 4.040 million Covid-19 shots, majority of which are from Sinovac.

As of Monday, the government has administered at least 1.9 million Covid-19 shots. It aims to inoculate a third of its population by the end of the year to achieve herd immunity.


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