MANILA: Moscow hopes to supply the Philippines with the Russian COVID-19 vaccine by the year’s end if joint clinical trials prove successful, Russia’s ambassador to Manila, Igor Khovaev, told Arab News.
Touted as the world’s first, the Russian COVID-19 vaccine, known by the tradename Sputnik V, was registered by the Russian Ministry of Health in August and approved for distribution in Russia despite international criticism that it had only been tested in a small number of people during Phase 1-2 trials. The Phase 3 trial has yet to be conducted.
“We hope to launch these trials this November. We hope so. We Russians, we are ready to move forward as fast as it’s acceptable for the Philippine side,” Khovaev told Arab News in an exclusive interview earlier this week.
“If the results of (the) joint clinical trials Phase 3 are positive, the supply of Russian vaccine (in the Philippines) can start by the end of this year,” he said, adding that the Philippines and Russia are also in talks for a potential bilateral partnership in the local production of the vaccine.
“I believe that we are on the right track. Everything is now under consideration in the (Philippine) Department of Science and Technology (DOST). So, we maintain close contacts with your DOST, and DOST also maintains close contact with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), the only Russian state-run institution which is responsible for distribution and production of the Russian vaccine,” the ambassador said.
“We provided your DOST with a bulk of information about the results of those clinical trials ... As for the final Phase 3, these trials should be conducted here on Philippines soil,” Khovaev said.
“It’s important because we fully understand that there are some people who can have doubts regarding the safety and efficiency of the Russian vaccine. And we believe that the best way to get rid of these doubts is to do joint clinical trials.”
According to the ambassador, the DOST had assured Russia that there would be at least 1,000 Filipino volunteers for the joint Phase 3 tests.
“If everything is OK, then after that we’ll be able to start discussing joint manufacturing. Because we are ready to share our technology with you Filipinos,” the envoy said.
In September, the DOST engaged with RDIF Senior Vice President Alexander Zhuravlev, who presented the Sputnik V vaccine to Philippine officials. Russia and the Philippines have already agreed to conduct the vaccine’s Phase 3 clinical trials, which were initially expected to take place from October 2020 to March 2021.
In a televised address on Wednesday night, President Rodrigo Duterte said that the Philippines would likely source COVID-19 vaccines from Russia and China, both of which had submitted applications to conduct clinical trials in the country.
He added that he wanted all 113 million Philippine citizens to be immunized against the disease.
As of Thursday, nearly 348,700 COVID-19 cases had been recorded in the Philippines, with 6,497 related deaths.
“All should have the vaccine without exception,” Duterte said, adding that Russia had pledged to build a pharmaceutical facility in the country.
Before the address, the president met Khovaev, who is soon ending his over five-year term in the Philippines.
“I just had a talk with the ambassador of Russia, the outgoing, and we had a serious one-on-one talk and they said that Russia is coming in,” Duterte said.
“They want to establish a pharmaceutical plant and their vaccine will also be made here.”