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Philippines’ Duterte throws support behind first COVID-19 vaccine

By Fatima Sule [NAN]

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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte would be willing to receive the first COVID-19 vaccine in the country to ease public apprehension over the shots, his spokesman said on Monday.

Last week, Duterte said in a public address that he would be among the last to get the vaccine, and that the priority would be medical frontline workers and people in vulnerable sectors.

Before that, he had volunteered to receive the first jab of a vaccine in the country.

The change prompted concerns among the public that the vaccine was not safe, amid reports of adverse effects in other countries where vaccinations have already started.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte was only thinking about the public’s welfare and wanted all Filipinos to be inoculated first, then government officials.

“If he thinks that people are afraid of the vaccine, then he will not hesitate to be the first to receive the vaccine,” Roque said.

“If it’s important (for the president to get the first shot), for the public to have confidence, then it is not impossible,” he added.

The Philippines’ COVID-19 caseload hit 500,577 on Sunday, with 9,895 deaths, almost one year since the first coronavirus infection in the country was reported.

The government hopes to begin its COVID-19 vaccination drive in February, and granted emergency use authorization to the vaccine manufactured by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech last week.

The government has so far only signed contracts for vaccine purchases with AstraZeneca/Oxford University, Sinovac and Novovax, which all have yet to receive emergency use authorization in the Philippines. (dpa/NAN)


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