MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte defended the government’s decision to buy a vaccine against the Chinese-made coronavirus, saying they were as good as the images developed by Americans and European
“The Chinese are not without brains,” Duterte said in a televised speech late at night. “The Chinese are bright. (In vaccine production) if it is not absolutely safe and stable “
Duterte noted because the degree of protection against the COVID-19 vaccine Sinovac Biotech was able to provide after researchers in Brazil released late-stage clinical data showing initially lower efficacy.
At least one Philippine senator Francis Pang Gilinan has called on the government to cancel the purchase of the Sinovac vaccine, with one in seven lining up due to plans to start vaccination next month.
Manila controlled 25 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine, with the first 50,000 expected to arrive in February.
Duterte, who has pursued a warm relationship with Beijing, said his previous preference was for his country to supply the COVID-19 vaccine from China or Russia.
Carlito Galvez, a former general in charge of vaccine purchases, said the government had entered into 137 million supply agreements with Russia’s Novavax, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Gamaleya Institute.
These were above the 40 million doses that the Philippines had expected through the WHO’s COVAX plant in the first quarter, Galvez said.
The Philippines is one of the most coronavirus cases in Asia. But it has followed regional peers on vaccine treatment, which it hopes this year could vaccinate 70 million people, or two-thirds of the population.
Opinion polls showed Thursday that less than a third of Filipinos are willing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as many voiced concerns about their safety. Philippine regulators have not yet approved a vaccine against COVID-19.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; (Edited by Peter Graff)