Palace welcomes Russia's COVID-19 vaccine, but PH FDA needs to OK it first
Malacañang welcomed on Monday the pronouncement of President Vladimir Putin that Russia has developed a vaccine against coronavirus disease.
In an interview by CNN Philippines, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, however, said that before the vaccine could be used among the Filipinos, including President Rodrigo Duterte who earlier offered to be the "guinea pig" for the Russian vaccine, it should be approved first by the local Food and Drug Administration.
"Well, you know, the good news is, the Russians have declared that they have a vaccine. Whether or not we could actually use it will depend on compliance with our existing laws because we have a statute which penalizes the use of any drug without prior approval of the FDA and before the FDA could approve it, the universities will have to conduct clinical studies to prove that it has no adverse effects," he said.
He said the only way the Russian vaccine, named as "Sputnik V," can be sold on commercial basis is if the FDA were to classify it as for "compassionate use," which is for limited basis.
"But I don't think it can be okayed on a mass use on the basis of compassionate use. So it will still have to go through the process," he explained.
Roque said other vaccines being developed by other countries also have to go the same process.
"That is why as early as now, we have been cooperating not only with WHO (World Health Organization) but with individual countries that are racing to develop the vaccine to help also in the worldwide clinical studies to be conducted," he said.
Duterte, in a recent televised message, thanked Russia for its offer to provide vaccine for the Philippines.
He even volunteered that he could be the first one to receive the vaccine to determine if it is safe for the Filipinos.
Roque said the President's statement volunteering himself to be the first to be injected with the vaccine from Russia was his way of expressing his gratitude.
"It was perfectly fine for him to offer it because that's his way of telling the people that, 'I want us to have a vaccine and I have to be the guinea pig for it, I don't mind'. And because that's the attitude of the President, he's old, he's at the end of his term, he can sacrifice his life for the Filipino people," he said.
But he noted that whether the Presidential Security Group (PSG) will allow him to use the vaccine first is a different thing.
"Because already we know that even in the last SONA (State of the Nation Address), after his address, he wanted to shake hand with the members of Congress and PSG did not allow him. So it’s difficult to be president because in a way you have limited your free will. The PSG is there to guard you and they are very good at doing their job," he explained.
Some quarters have been questioning the efficacy of the Russian vaccine as it has not gone through the third cycle of clinical trials.
Roque also defended Duterte for his statement that Russia would be giving some free vaccine, which could give false hope among the Filipinos.
"I don't thing it's false hope because with the President saying he wants to be injected with it, I think the FDA would have to go out of its way to fast-track the clinical studies that are required and it can be done anyway. So, you know, the words of the President constitutes actionable policy and it's a signal also to our local FDA to do everything and anything it can to make sure that it can be administered to the President safely," he added.