Philippines' Duterte Backtracks, Receives Coronavirus Vaccine in Arm on Camera

Philippines' Duterte Backtracks, Receives Coronavirus Vaccine in Arm on Camera

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte received his first dose of the Chinese-made coronavirus vaccine candidate Sinopharm on Monday.

Philippine Secretary of Health and medical doctor (M.D.) Francisco Duque III administered Duterte his first dose of the two-dose Sinopharm vaccine candidate at the Philippine presidential palace (“Malacañang”) in Manila on May 3.

“I feel good,” President Duterte said when asked how he felt by Duque before receiving Sinopharm.

“And I have been expecting this shot, vaccination a long time ago [sic],” the president added.

Duterte’s former aide, Philippine Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Tesoro Go, broadcast the procedure via Facebook Live. Various media outlets also captured the procedure on video as the event was staged at Malacañang with Asian press in attendance. While some Philippine news outlets reported that Senator Bong Go’s Facebook Live stream cut away before viewers could see the needle of the syringe inserted into Duterte’s arm, more complete video footage captured by the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) appears to show the moment in question.

Duterte previously expressed a desire through his spokesman, Harry Roque, to receive a Chinese coronavirus vaccine in private. CNN Philippines asked Roque on January 26 if Duterte’s decision to receive the vaccine privately was final, to which Roque replied, “I think so. He has said so. As he said, because he is going to be injected in the ass, it cannot be done in public.”

Duterte ultimately received the vaccine in his arm, the customary method of injection.

Sinopharm is a Chinese coronavirus vaccine candidate developed by the state-run China National Pharmaceutical Group.

“No detailed efficacy data of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] vaccine has been publicly released but its developer, Beijing Biological Products Institute, a unit of Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group (CNBG), said the vaccine was 79.34 percent effective in preventing people from developing the disease based on interim data,” Reuters reported on March 31. “It has been approved in several countries including China, Pakistan and the UAE.”

Sinopharm has yet to receive approval for emergency use in the Philippines. Roque said the president’s first dose of Sinopharm was “covered by the compassionate use permit issued to the PSG hospital by the FDA,” in a statement issued May 3.

The PSG, or Presidential Security Group, is a branch of the Philippine military assigned to protect the Philippine president and vice president. Emergency use authorization for Chinese coronavirus vaccines in the Philippines is issued by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which granted the PSG’s official hospital special permission to use 10,000 doses of Sinopharm via its “compassionate use” permit in February.

The FDA issued the special license to the PSG two months after President Duterte revealed on December 28, 2020, that the PSG received an early version of Sinopharm’s coronavirus vaccine candidate before any other Filipinos last year. The doses were illegally “smuggled” into the Philippines as early as September 2020.

Gabrielle Reyes