Russia can produce COVID-19 vaccines for PH as early as January – envoy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 16) — Russia may start producing COVID-19 vaccines for the Philippines as early as January, the country's envoy said, but it will all depend on whether local authorities will choose to administer Sputnik V to Filipinos.

"They can start producing for us – they have to produce it as it is ordered – as early as January if we are ready to accept it," Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta said in a Monday briefing hosted by Malacañang.

Local laws require a separate set of regulatory approvals for a vaccine before it can be given to Filipinos. The Food and Drug Administration said this may take 45-60 days following approval from a foreign regulator.

Sorreta said vaccine development has been "quite advanced," with no adverse side effects or deaths recorded among some 40,000 people who received doses. Last week, Russia claimed the Sputnik V is 92% effective, supposedly besting the 90% efficacy of US-based drugmaker Pfizer's vaccine.

RELATED: What we know — and don't know — about Russia's 'Sputnik V' vaccine

The Russian Phase 3 trial will continue for six more months and data from the trial will be published in an international medical journal following a peer review, the Russian Direct Investment Fund said.

Sorreta said the Department of Health and Department of Science and Technology are in "direct talks" with Russian authorities regarding the vaccine.

The Sputnik V, produced by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, was the first to declare success in developing the vaccine. Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed in August that one of his daughters took it and felt well afterwards. However, the announcement of its approval came even before Phase 3 clinical trials began.

"They know the demand is very high. It's really a matter of how early we can do our own due diligence and sign agreements through the procurement process," Sorreta said.

RELATED: WHO 'has been in touch' with the institution behind Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

"Of course, we need to be ready with some of the infrastructure para sa (for) storage at the required temperature," Sorreta added. "There's a version of the vaccine that will not require extreme temperatures, pero (but) it might be a little more expensive."

Another way to secure additional supply is by signing a co-production deal with Russia, which will allow the local production of vaccine doses. Among the approved partners are South Korea and Brazil, the envoy said, adding that Moscow wants deals in place in "almost every region of the world."

READ: Reality bites for Putin's much-hyped COVID-19 vaccine, as concerns over efficacy and safety linger

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Philippine government has been in talks with several countries and blocs as the Philippines screens which vaccine is the best in terms of quality, price, and availability. Apart from Russia, talks are ongoing with China and the US, to name a few. Authorities are now targeting to get in touch with France and Israel, which are also working on their own vaccines.

The world is waiting for a potent vaccine, which will allow the unwinding of strict quarantine protocols and revive consumer and business confidence to return to normal.