President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a meeting with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on May 5, 2021. / Presidential Communications Facebook page
MANILA, Philippines — Frustrated by criticism of his vaccination with a COVID-19 jab not yet approved for the public, President Rodrigo Duterte is now asking China to take back its donation of 1,000 vaccines developed by Sinopharm Group Co. Ltd.
Duterte was inoculated with a Sinopharm jab administered by Health Secretary Duque III on Monday night. The surprise vaccination came after months of urging that Duterte get his jab in public to boost confidence in vaccines.
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But Duterte opted to receive a vaccine covered by a special permit and not yet available to the rest of the country. The country’s Food and Drug Administration has not even begun processing Sinopharm’s emergency use application due to lacking documents.
“So we are sorry. You are right, we are wrong,” the president said during a public address aired Wednesday night, addressing critics.
However, he caveated his apology, saying partially in Filipino: “[W]hat was injected to me…it’s a decision of my doctor and, all things said, this is my life.”
Due to the controversy surrounding Sinopharm’s vaccines, Duterte said he asked China to stop donating the jabs and withdraw the 1,000 doses that are already here. “I told them just give us Sinovac that is being used by all,” he said in Filipino.
‘Duterte sending wrong message to already vaccine-hesitant public’
The COVID-19 Action Network (CAN), a civil society network, on Wednesday night said that Duterte’s vaccination with an unapproved vaccine “sends the wrong message to the already vaccine hesitant public.”
“Transparency is essential to build vaccination trust in our citizens so we can reach herd immunity,” CAN said.
If Duterte wanted to boost public trust, the network said, he should have used a vaccine with emergency use approval from local regulators and available to the rest of Filipinos.
“President Duterte, as chief executive, should have a greater moral imperative to abide by vaccine protocols,” the network added.
“How can we trust the president to lead us in fighting the COVID-19 crisis when he himself does not follow the rules? The rules and regulations enforced by our government become meaningless if they are subject to political accommodation, and can be so easily bent by those in power.”