Philippines’ Duterte gets Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccine

MANILA, May 3 — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte received his first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine Monday, weeks after saying he would waive his chance to get inoculated, as the country struggles to secure jabs amid a resurgence in infections.

Officials said Duterte was given the vaccine made by China’s Sinopharm—the same one secretly administered to members of his security team last year before any shot had been given regulatory approval.

Photos posted on the Facebook page of a close aide showed a masked Duterte, wearing an unbuttoned denim shirt over a white T-shirt and braces—sitting in a chair as Health Secretary Francisco Duque injected him.

“He was vaccinated not only to protect his health from Covid-19 but also to encourage our citizens to get vaccinated,” Senator Christopher “Bong” Go posted. 

“As a senior citizen, he was among the priority for vaccination.”

A Facebook Live video of the event cut out moments before the needle punctured Duterte’s upper left arm, but photos showed the injection.

Duterte has previously expressed confidence in vaccines made by China and Russia, even offering himself up as a guinea pig for the very first jab of Moscow’s controversial “Sputnik V”.

But last month the 76-year-old said he would forgo the opportunity to get vaccinated, arguing elderly people like him should not be prioritised.

“I feel good and I have been expecting this shot, vaccination, a long time,” Duterte said as Duque, wearing a blue medical gown, mask, face shield and latex gloves, prepared to give the injection in front of the cameras.

Sinopharm has been restricted to compassionate use only in the Philippines. 

Other vaccines being rolled out across the country of 110 million people—the Sinovac, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V jabs—have received emergency-use approval for the general public.

By May 1, just over 1.6 million first doses had been administered, while fewer than 300,000 people are fully vaccinated, government data shows.

The Philippines is battling to bring down a spike in infections that has taken its caseload to more than a million, including more than 17,500 fatalities. 

Tighter restrictions in the national capital region and surrounding provinces imposed at the end of March are showing signs of working.

But hospitals in the capital are still stretched and delays in vaccine deliveries have slowed inoculations.

Vaccine hesitancy is a significant issue in the Philippines, with a recent survey showing around 60 percent of people unwilling to get vaccinated against Covid-19. — AFP

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