Roque: Duterte's offer to receive first COVID-19 shot not yet off the table

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 14) — President Rodrigo Duterte could still get the first shot of a registered coronavirus vaccine in the country to raise public confidence in COVID-19 vaccines, his spokesman Harry Roque said Thursday.

"Kung talagang kinakailangan na mauna ang Presidente para magkaroon ng kumpiyansa ang taumbayan, hindi ko naman po sinasabing imposibleng mangyari pa rin iyon dahil sinabi nga niya noon na mauuna siyang magpabakuna," Roque said in a briefing.

[Translation: If there's really a need for the President to be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to build public confidence, then I am not saying it's impossible to happen because he has said before he is willing to be vaccinated first.]

Roque made the remark after Duterte said in a public address on Wednesday that he and some other government officials will be the last to be vaccinated so the limited supply could be allocated to priority groups.

Duterte prefers to be injected with coronavirus vaccines developed by China and Russia, Roque said earlier this week.

On Wednesday's address, Duterte defended his administration's decision to purchase coronavirus vaccines developed by Chinese firms, arguing they are as good as their Western counterparts.

Amid criticisms on its effectiveness, the Philippines is set to receive 25 million doses from Chinese drugmaker Sinovac Biotech this year, with the first 50,000 available as early as February. Sinovac's vaccine was just 50.38% effective in late-stage trials in Brazil, significantly lower than what earlier results showed, CNN reported, citing a statement published by the government of Sao Paulo on Tuesday.

Roque said the country would also receive next month COVID-19 vaccines from Russia's Gamaleya and US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, but said he was not at liberty to disclose how many doses will be delivered. Pfizer, Gamaleya, Sinovac, and British firm AstraZeneca have applied for emergency use authorization of their COVID-19 vaccines. But only Pfizer has so far secured the approval of the Philippines' Food and Drug Administration.

Roque said despite Duterte's preference for COVID-19 vaccines developed by Russian and Chinese companies, he will only get immunized with an FDA-approved vaccine.