MANILA — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has lauded Russia’s efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine and is willing to participate in trials, as he welcomed a supply offer from Moscow that he expects will be free of charge.
Russia expects regulatory approval for a potential COVID-19 vaccine this month and is ready to provide it to the Philippines, or team up with a local firm to mass produce it.
The Philippines has among Asia’s highest numbers of coronavirus infections, which rose to 136,638 on Monday after a record daily jump of 6,958 cases.
“I will tell President (Vladimir) Putin that I have huge trust in your studies in combating COVID and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity,” Duterte said on television late on Monday.
The frenetic global race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine has raised concern that speed and national prestige could compromise safety.
To allay public fears, Duterte offered to be a guinea pig when the vaccine arrives and said: “I can be the first they can experiment on.”
His office on Tuesday said the Philippines stands ready to work with Russia on vaccine trials, supply and production.
In July, Duterte made a plea to his Chinese counterpart to make the Philippines a priority if it develops a vaccine, amid concern in developing countries about availability.
He this month restored a strict lockdown in and around the capital Manila for an initial two weeks, heeding the plea of medical frontliners for a “timeout” amid a surge in infections during a period when restrictions were eased.
If the situation becomes a “runaway contagion”, Duterte on Monday vowed to mobilise the military to enforce the lockdown.
The lockdown has been among the world’s toughest and Duterte’s opponents and rights groups have voiced concern about his security-centred approach and the conduct of police. —Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty