Russia hopes to supply Philippines with ‘Sputnik-V’ COVID-19 vaccine by year’s end

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Russia's "Sputnik-V" vaccine against COVID-19 will soon be made available in the Philippines. (REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva)
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Russia's "Sputnik-V" vaccine against COVID-19 will soon be made available in the Philippines. (REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva)
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Updated 15 October 2020

Russia hopes to supply Philippines with ‘Sputnik-V’ COVID-19 vaccine by year’s end

  • If joint clinical trials are successful, Russia wants to share its technology with the Philippines and start local production of the Sputnik V vaccine
  • President Rodrigo Duterte says the Philippines plans to inoculate its entire 113 million population against the coronavirus

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.”

How Arabs are perceived in the French imagination

Updated 20 min 1 sec ago

How Arabs are perceived in the French imagination

  • The collective representation of Arabs in France is, without a doubt, a legacy of the colonial era
  • Perception of Arabs is characterized by an ambivalence where rejection and attraction are combined

PARIS: Contrary to popular belief, the presence of Arabs in France is not related to the waves of economic immigration of the 1960s. Rather, it goes back to the early Middle Ages, around the year 717, when the Arab-Berber armies — under Umayyad command — crossed the Pyrenees to take Septimania from the Visigoths.

It became one of the five provinces of Al-Andalus, with Arbuna (Narbonne) as its capital. Often forgotten, this event is nonetheless a significant step in the history of France.

Therefore, it was in the eighth century that Arabs materialized in the French imagination. Perceived as the infidel (non-Christian), Arabs were referred to indifferently as “the Moor,” “the Ismaili” or “the Mohammedan.” They were then targeted by the propaganda of the “cultured” elite of the time, which referred to them with insulting adjectives and degrading representations.

Islam, described as heretical, faced all sorts of slander and disinformation. Relayed and fueled by men of ecclesiastical power, writers and other chroniclers, these stereotypes persisted for centuries and “fed” minds during the Crusades and beyond.

However, according to the circumstances, the perception of Arabs is characterized by an ambivalence where rejection and attraction are combined. This is reflected in the admiration for Arab soldiers who fought for France and who were involved in the battles for Sevastopol, Sedan, Verdun and Monte Cassino, and occasionally on the wrong side of history, as in Dien Bien Phu. Once demobilized, the survivors returned to their countries — under colonial domination.

The negative stereotypes strongly resurfaced during the colonial era, as if to justify the violence against the dominated populations. The Republic was responsible for guiding these “savage indigenous” peoples towards the light of “civilization.” Under the Third Republic, anti-Arab propaganda entered the classroom. At the time, textbooks boasted of the “civilizing work of colonization” and used 19th-century raciology to reconcile dominant prejudices with republican principles.

In the wake of the Second World War, France lacked the manpower for its reconstruction. It brought in tens of thousands of workers every year. This was the dawn of an era of mass immigration favored by full employment — the Thirty Glorious Years (1945-1975).

The inward flow rose from 50,000 in 1946 to 3,868,000 in 1975. Of this mass of humanity, film producer Francis Bouygues said, somewhat paternalistically, “foreigners have many qualities, and they are courageous people.”

For employers, migrant workers were simply a factor of production. Their presence in France was necessary, provided it was temporary. This “ideal” vision of economic immigration, which denies the social aspect of the issue, fell apart in the 1970s because of family reunification.

For the racist part of the population, the idea that “Arabs” could settle in France permanently was unbearable. This sparked a rash of racist hate crimes between 1971 and 1983, which claimed dozens of lives.

Originally economic, immigration gradually became a political and electoral issue. All political tendencies have tried to control it, except for the far right, which instead exploits the slightest incident to wake up old demons.

The collective representation of Arabs in France is, without a doubt, a legacy of the colonial era. If the old stereotypes seem to have gone out of fashion, the fact remains that the perception of the other varies between rejection and attraction according to crises and events.

When France became the football world champion in 1998, it celebrated Zinedine Zidane — the son of a migrant Algerian worker, regularly named among France’s favorite personalities. The euphoria of that moment gave birth to the slogan “black-blanc-beur,” a term coined to denote “living together.” This myth was shattered seven years later by the riots in Clichy-sous-Bois.

Given the extent of the violence, authorities instituted a curfew, backed by the state of emergency law. Ironically, this landmark law was passed in April 1955 under the government of Edgar Faure in the context of the Algerian War. During this period, it was also applied in metropolitan France, but on North Africans alone. This is the origin of the notorious “looks-based checks” which continue to this day.

The Islamization of perception was legitimized by the Iranian revolution, the headscarf affair of 1989 and attacks carried out by terrorists claiming to be Muslim. But it was the Sept. 11 attacks in the US that ultimately fixed the image of the Islamist terrorist in the collective imagination.

We are witnessing the crescendo of an uninhibited racism, regularly reported by exhibitionist media and writers in need of work. The big paradox is when we know that the great majority of French of Arab origin, practicing or not, evolve in perfect harmony with the values of the Republic. In addition, they effectively contribute to the development of France in all areas.

The most relevant example is undoubtedly that of the thousands of doctors of Arab origin, generally from the Maghreb, who practically carry the French health system. However, these doctors, like others, feel stigmatized because of their origin, the consonance of their name and their real or supposed religion.

This feeling of exclusion is stronger in women, according to the Arab News en Francais/YouGov survey conducted in September. It is clear that the rejection experienced by this category of French citizens nowadays resembles the rejection of the Arabs in the past. How long will these prejudices and representations remain?