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Duterte airs support for Chinese vaccines

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. PHILIPPINES’ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTOGRAPHERS DIVISION/AFP

Duterte airs support for Chinese vaccines

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is willing to receive a Chinese-developed Covid-19 vaccine, his spokesman said on January 19.

Harry Roque told an online news conference that Duterte, 75, wants the jabs of the vaccine from Sinovac Biotech to be administered to him away from the public eye.

The spokesman had been asked if Duterte would receive the shots. Roque said: “Yes, and his answer was: ‘No problem, I will take the vaccine as soon as it’s available.’”

Duterte has talked about the safety of vaccines developed by China’s biopharmaceutical companies.

In a late-night televised national address on January 18, Duterte said China’s Covid-19 vaccines, including those from Sinovac and Sinopharm, are being used in Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, the UAE and Brazil.

Duterte also said last week that the Chinese vaccines are “safe, sure and secure”.

The Philippine government has said it has secured 25 million doses of the Sinovac-developed CoronaVac vaccine, which is awaiting authorisation for emergency use from the Food and Drug Administration of the Philippines.

The first batch of 50,000 doses of CoronaVac will arrive in the Philippines as early as next month. Chinese State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi, who visited Manila on January 16, said the Chinese government will donate 500,000 doses of the vaccine to the Philippines.

Robert Dan J Roces, chief economist at Manila-based Security Bank Corp, said the vaccine rollout can serve as a “stimulus” to the Philippine economy because it will help restore business and consumer confidence.

He said the programme will cause “positive ripple effects” that will strengthen market conditions as early as the second quarter of this year.

“In turn, tail winds from positive sentiment and improved confidence will only propel the recovery upward,” Roces said.

Nicholas Antonio Mapa, senior economist at Dutch investment bank ING, said the vaccine rollout is “in many ways a game changer given our reliance on household spending to drive growth.

“Without the vaccine, general anxiety about catching the virus and government prescribed restrictions will continue to curtail and disrupt normal consumption patterns,” said Mapa, alluding to the lockdown measures that were imposed to curb infections.

Ruben Carlo Asuncion, chief economist at Union Bank of the Philippines, said the “swiftness of the vaccine rollout will help consumers return to the pre-pandemic buying behaviour.

“More people being vaccinated, I believe, would result to a better economic recovery and outlook,” he said.

The Philippines has the second highest number of Covid-19 infections in Southeast Asia, after Indonesia. There were more than 504,000 cases in the Philippines by January 19, according to the country’s health department.

The government is gradually easing movement restrictions to reopen the economy. The vaccination programme is in line with this policy.

Apart from Sinovac, the Philippine government has also secured the supply of 30 million doses of a vaccine from the Serum Institute of India. The Philippines also plans to buy vaccines from the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership, Moderna, Astra-Zeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute.

Analysts said the government has to assure the public that vaccinations are safe to encourage more people to get inoculated.

Asuncion said: “Major information campaigns should be out there and the messaging should be clear to help reverse the attitude toward vaccines.

“The success toward achieving herd immunity through the vaccines is crucial for the economic growth outlook.”

XINHUA NEWS AGENCY, CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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