A Catholic bishop lambasted the Philippine government’s plan to volunteer Filipinos in clinical trials for a Russian coronavirus vaccine.
Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan warned the government against “messing with Filipino lives” with a vaccine that is “not proven effective yet.”
He said there is still no “published data” about the Russian vaccine and the government will only be “putting the lives of Filipinos at risk by pushing them as guinea pigs.”
On August 13, government spokesman Harry Roque said the country plans to participate in the phase 3 of clinical trials for the Russian vaccine dubbed Sputnik V.
He said that a panel of vaccine experts in the Philippines will be reviewing the results of phases 1 and 2, which were conducted in Russia, before implementing phase 3.
He said phase 3 of the clinical trials will be administered to Filipino volunteers from October until March next year and will be “fully funded by the Russian government.”
Roque said that by April 2021 the vaccine might already be registered in the country’s Food and Drug Administration.
Bishop Bagaforo, however, expressed suspicion why Russia introduced and approved a coronavirus vaccine that “has yet to undergo a critical stage of clinical trials.”
He urged the Philippine government to seek the advice and recommendation of the international health community and other experts before entering into an agreement with Russia.
Authorities said about 1,000 Filipinos will receive the first doses of the Russian vaccine.
Top Filipino scientists have already met this week with representatives of Moscow-based Gamaleya Institute, the vaccine developer, to discuss details of the first two phases of the trial.
In a television interview, Doctor Jaime Montoya of the Department of Science and Technology said results of the previous clinical trials showed that the vaccine produced “sufficient antibodies” in people.
“It was safe, only minor adverse effects, such as fever for a few days after the injection,” he said, adding that 76 people were injected with the vaccine and did not manifest any alarming side effects.
On August 10, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed confidence with the Russian vaccine, saying that he would volunteer to be the first person to be vaccinated.
Bishop Bagaforo urged Duterte to follow the guidelines set by experts on the conduct of the clinical trials. “Obviously, he is not qualified for it,” said the prelate.