Duterte accepts Putin’s offer of free COVID-19 vaccine

Manila, Aug 11 (efe-epa).- The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, said Monday night he has accepted the offer of his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to supply the Russian vaccine against COVID-19 for “free” when it is available and offered to be the first to be publicly vaccinated.

“When the vaccine arrives, I will inject it in public. Experiment with me, that’s fine with me. If it works for me, it will work for everyone,” the president said in a televised speech nearing midnight on Tuesday.

Duterte was confident in the effectiveness of the vaccine being developed by Russia, which he said will be ready by December, when “The Philippines will be free of COVID-19 and will be able to enjoy a peaceful Christmas.”

“I will tell President Putin that I have full confidence in his clinical studies and that the vaccine they are producing is a good for all humanity,” said Duterte, who in the past has not hidden his admiration for the Russian president, whom he considered his “idol.”

Duterte said that Russia has offered the vaccine “for free” and suggested that Filipinos could take part in clinical trials of the vaccine, but did not clarify either its name or the laboratory behind it.

He also did not give details about how Putin sent him the offer, or the conditions of the agreement.

“They want to provide us with the vaccine, they haven’t said they’ll charge for it. I think President Putin wants to help us for free,” he said.

International health experts have expressed concern about the safety of the Russian vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Institute, which according to the Russian government would be the first to be approved this month, to begin the immunization campaign in October.

The Philippine president also said some weeks ago that Chinese President Xi Jinping also promised him that the Philippines will be one of the first countries to benefit from some of the three most advanced Chinese vaccines in clinical trials.

Duterte has reoriented his foreign policy towards China and Russia, to the detriment of the US, its historical partner since the end of World War II, and insisted that if the US achieves a vaccine, “it will expect financial compensation for it.”

The Philippines leads the COVID-19 infection tally in Southeast Asia and on Monday registered almost 7,000 new cases – a new daily record since the beginning of the pandemic -, to reach 136,638 infections -66,186 active-, including 2,293 deaths.

Due to the increase in cases, Duterte ordered at the beginning of the month the re-confinement for 15 days of Manila and four neighboring provinces – which account for a quarter of the Philippine population and almost 70 percent of GDP – to contain the virus. EFE-EPA


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