Philippine President Duterte may be injected with Russia’s coronavirus vaccine by next May

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gives a speech at the Malacanang Palace in Manila on June 1, 2017.

Noel Celis | AFP | Getty Images

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte may be injected with Russia’s coronavirus vaccine as early as May 2021, according to the government’s official newswire, which quoted the presidential spokesman on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Duterte volunteered to participate in trials for the Russian vaccine, even as scientists and health experts questioned the safety and effectiveness of the drug.

Russia on Tuesday announced it had registered the world’s first vaccine for the fast-spreading coronavirus disease, or Covid-19, after less than two months of clinical trials. Data of those trials have not been published.

The Philippines is among a handful of countries that will take part in a more extensive “phase three” trial for the vaccine. Philippine News Agency, the government’s official newswire, reported that the country aims to begin those trials in October.

Phase three trials are considered by medical experts to be critical for any vaccine development and are needed to root out any potential side effects. Such trials, which typically randomize who gets the vaccine and who doesn’t, can involve thousands of participants.

The Philippines last week overtook Indonesia to report the highest number of cumulative coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University showed. As of Thursday afternoon, the country has reported 143,749 cases and 2,404 deaths, according to Hopkins data.

Duterte last month pleaded with China to make his country a priority as it develops a vaccine, reported Reuters.

J. Stephen Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” Wednesday that it’s no surprise Russian President Vladimir Putin offered Russia’s vaccine to Duterte.

Morrison is a senior vice president at CSIS and director of the think tank’s Global Health Policy Center.

“Putin is also playing on the anxiety within lower-income and lower middle-income countries that the rich countries are locking up all the supplies of vaccines coming out of these other major outlets, and that they’re going to be left at the back of the queue with long, lengthy and highly damaging delays,” he said.  

— CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report.

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