President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for posterity prior to the start of the 16th Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club at the Polyana 1389 Hotel in Sochi on October 3, 2019. RICHARD MADELO/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte does not mind being the “guinea pig” to dispel the fears over the Russian Covid-19 vaccine, whose quick approval in Moscow has raised alarm.

In an interview over CNN Philippines’ The Source, Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte’s offer to be the first to receive the vaccine shots was his way of telling the Filipino people: “I want us to have a vaccine and I have to be the guinea pig for it, I don’t mind.” 

“Because that’s the attitude of the President ‘no: he’s old, he’s at the end of his term, he can sacrifice his life for the Filipino people,” Roque said.

FDA, PSG may interject

However, despite Duterte’s offer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Presidential Security Group (PSG) might not allow the 75-year-old leader to be a test subject for the vaccine, Roque said.

“As to whether or not PSG will actually allow him is a different thing because already we know that even in the last State of the Nation Address… he wanted to shake hands with the members of Congress and PSG did not allow him. The PSG is there to guard you and they are very good at doing their job,” Roque said.

On Tuesday, Roque said the FDA would have the final say whether to approve the Russian vaccine or not.

“Kinakailangan nating sundin ang batas na umiiral sa Pilipinas dahil walang gamot na ibibigay sa publiko na hindi dumadaan sa FDA…. Hindi mag-i-issue ng permit to utilize ang isang gamot kung wala po ang clinical trial so dadaan din po ‘yan sa proseso natin ‘yan,” he said in a Palace briefing.

Many have questioned Russia’s vaccine development as it had not undergone Phase 3 trials, which normally last for months and involve thousands of people.

But Russian President Vladimir Putin said the vaccine was already “ready and registered.”

“I would like to repeat that it has passed all the necessary tests,” Putin said of the vaccine. “The most important thing is to ensure full safety of using the vaccine and its efficiency.”

PH to work with Russia

In a statement, Roque welcomed Russia’s offer of the vaccine and said the act “underscores the deepening cooperation between our two countries after Duterte charted an independent foreign policy course for our nation.”

“As we have said, the Philippines is ready to work with Russia, on clinical trials, vaccine supply and production, among others, subject to our existing laws and local processes,” Roque said.

“We are one with Russia and the rest of the world in finding safe and accessible vaccines to address the Covid-19 pandemic that affected many nations and peoples.” John Ezekiel J. Hirro