Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to get injected – in public – with a vaccine he said the Russian government is willing to give the Philippines for free in another late-night public address on Monday, August 10.
"Ako, pagdating ng bakuna in public, para walang satsat diyan, in public magpa-injection ako. Ako ‘yung maunang ma-eksperimentuhan," he said, speaking to the country from Davao City in the presence of his coronavirus task force officials.
(Me, when it comes to public vaccination, so no one will doubt, I will get injected in public. I will be the first to get experimented on.)
"I will tell President Putin that I have great trust in your studies in combatting [COVID-19] and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," continued Duterte who had called the Russian president his "idol" on several occasions.
The Philippine leader claims Russia is offering a vacine to the Philippines for free. It appears he was also talking about Russia proposing that Filipinos be part of clinical trials for their vaccine.
Duterte did not elaborate on the name of the vaccine or specific details of the clinical trials. He also did not explain how Russia made its offer, if through a phonecall or letter from its leaders.
"Ang ano nila is magbigay sila ng bakuna. Wala naman silang sinasabi 'bayaran mo.' Ito tingin ko kay President Putin, tulong niya sa atin, libre," said Duterte.
(They want to provide a vaccine. They didn't say, 'pay for it.' I think this is help from President Putin, free.)
Yet health experts have raised concerns about Russia's vaccine, specifically the vaccine being developed by Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute.
Russia recently boasted it will be the first to approve a COVID-19 vaccine this month and that it will begin mass vaccinations in October. But experts like Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have expressed concerns over its safety.
“I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing a vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone, because claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing I think is problematic at best,” he has said.
But Duterte doesn't seem to share the same concerns, saying on Monday that Philippine and Russian officials are already ironing out how much of the vaccine to reserve for his country.
Duterte ordered the Department of Health to assign an official to deal with the Russians. He held a letter of gratitude addressed to President Putin.
Duterte then projected that a COVID-19 vaccine would be ready for distribution in clinical trials by next month.
"Actually, ang vaccines they are to be distributed, worldwide na ‘yan by September, October, bibitawan na ‘yan nila dahan-dahan the clinical studies, and if it’s completed, ilalarga nila ‘yan," he said.
(Actually, the vaccines are to be distributed worldwide by September, October. They'll release it gradually, the clinical studies, and if it's completed, they will distribute it.)
He wished for a "COVID-free December" so that Filipinos could enjoy the Christmas season.
Not long after mentioning Russia, Duterte brought up the vaccine efforts of the United States of America, a longtime rival of Russia's.
Duterte said he isn't sure if the U.S. will also offer free COVID-19 vaccines to the Philippines.
"Whether or not magbigay ng libre ang America, wala pa akong – hindi ko naman sinasabi na hindi pero ang sigurado ko ang Russia," said the Philippine President.
(Whether or not America will give for free, I don't – I'm not saying they won't but Russia is for sure.)
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.