MANILA (Reuters) – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte received his first dose of Sinopharm’s vaccine against COVID-19 on Monday to encourage reluctant Filipinos to get inoculated and help stop the spread of the virus, his closest aide said.
Duterte, 76, got inoculated to protect himself from COVID-19 and encourage the public to get vaccinated, Christopher Go, a senator and his closest aide, said in a statement.
Ahead of receiving his first dose, which was streamed live on Facebook, Duterte said: “I feel good and I have been expecting this shot, vaccination a long time ago.”
Six of 10 Filipinos are unwilling to be vaccinated because of safety concerns, according to Pulse Asia’s survey of 2,400 respondents between Feb. 22 and March 3. In a similar poll in November, only 47% said they would refuse a vaccination.
The Philippines has recorded 1.06 million COVID-19 cases and 17,525 deaths, the second highest in Southeast Asia, next to Indonesia. Among those who contracted and later recovered from COVID-19 are Duterte’s spokesman and defence minister.
Sinopharm’s emergency use application in the Philippines is still pending, but the country’s food and drugs regulator has approved the “compassionate use” of 10,000 Sinopharm doses for Duterte’s security detail.
The vaccine, administered to Duterte by the health minister, was covered by the compassionate use permit, said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.
Duterte had repeatedly expressed his preference for vaccines made by China and Russia.
The Philippines has administered 1.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, mostly of which were from China’s Sinovac Biotech, since it started immunisation drive on March 1.
It plans to vaccinate up to 70 million of its 108 million population this year to achieve herd immunity and safely reopen the pandemic-battered economy.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Giles Elgood)