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Philippines eyes clinical trials for Russian COVID-19 vaccine in October

FILE PHOTO: A handout photo provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) shows samples of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, in Moscow, Russia August 6, 2020. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF)/Handout via REUTERS

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines plans to launch clinical trials for a Russian coronavirus vaccine in October, with President Rodrigo Duterte expected to be inoculated as early as May next year, the presidential spokesman said on Thursday.

Harry Roque, Duterte’s spokesman, made the announcement a day after Philippine scientists met with representatives of the vaccine developer, research facility Gamaleya, to discuss trials and information about the inoculation.

Russia on Tuesday became the world’s first country to grant regulatory approval for a COVID-19 vaccine, to be named “Sputnik V” in homage to the Soviet Union’s launch of the world’s first satellite.

But its decision to grant approval before completing trials has raised concerns among some experts, who fear it may be putting national prestige before safety.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told Reuters that all clinical trials would need to go through the regulatory process.

Phase three clinical trials in the Philippines are due to run from October to March 2021, after a panel of vaccine experts completes its review on Russia’s phase one and two trials in September, Roque told a media briefing.

Duterte is keen to access a vaccine and in July made a plea to China to make the Philippines a priority if it develops one.

The president has pledged that the Philippines, which suffered its biggest economic contraction in nearly three decades, would be “back to normal” by December even as it has been reporting record numbers of daily coronavirus infections since July.

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 143,000 people and killed 2,404 in the Philippines. A strict coronavirus lockdown recently reintroduced in and around the capital Manila is unlikely to be extended beyond August 18, the presidential spokesman said.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Karen Lema; Editing by Ed Davies

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