MANILA (Reuters) – Russia is willing to supply a coronavirus vaccine to the Philippines, or team up with a local firm to mass produce it, its ambassador to Manila said on Friday, as infections in the Southeast Asian nation surge.
Russia is expecting regulatory approval for its first potential COVID-19 vaccine this month, with doses to be administered to frontline health workers first.
But the frenetic race globally to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is raising some concern that speed could compromise safety and that some countries could be putting national prestige before solid science.
“We are ready to supply vaccines to the Philippines,” Igor Khovaev, Russia’s ambassador to the Philippines, told a virtual news conference.
It can also invest with a Philippine partner for local vaccine production, he said, adding that Russia was awaiting a response to its proposal from the Philippines’ foreign ministry.
The ministry in a statement said the Russian offer “has been referred to the appropriate agencies for proper assessment and evaluation.”
Khovaev said the vaccine was “effective and safe”, adding that about 20 countries had expressed interest in working with Russia on deployment of the vaccines.
Russia’s offer comes amid concern in some developing countries about access to a COVID-19 vaccine, with expectations of high demand globally.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has sought closer ties with Russia, as well as with China, in part due to his dislike for historic ally the United States.
Duterte last month said he had made a plea to his Chinese counterpart to make the Philippines a priority if it successfully develops a COVID-19 vaccine. The Philippines has so far recorded more than 122,000 cases.
Asked on Thursday about the Russian vaccine, World Health Organization emergencies director Michael Ryan said trial data was needed to ensure any vaccines are safe and effective.
(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty)