Palace: Duterte willing to be a guinea pig for Russia's COVID-19 vaccine if PSG allows it

President Duterte is willing to be a "guinea pig" for the coronavirus vaccine developed by Russia but such action will still depend on the approval of his security team, Malacañang said Wednesday.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said although the President has offered to risk his life to take the vaccine shot, he has actually "limited" free will for safety and security reasons.

"It was perfectly fine for him to offer it because that's his way of telling the people that 'I want us to have a vaccine and if I have to be a guinea pig for it, i don't mind.' Because that's the attitude of the President. He's old, he's at the end of his term, he can sacrifice his life for the Filipino people," he said over CNN Philippines Wednesday.

"But as to whether or not the PSG (Presidential Security Group) will actually allow him is a different thing,"he said.

Roque said the PSG implements strict safety and health protocols to ensure the President's wellbeing especially during the coronavirus pandemic. He recalled that after delivering his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last month, Duterte wanted to shake hands with lawmakers but the PSG did not allow him.

"It's difficult to be President because you have limited free will. The PSG is there to guard you and they are very good at doing their job," he said.

The President recently accepted Russia's offer to supply potential coronavirus vaccines to the Philippines and volunteered to take the first shot. The Palace already sent word to Russia that the Philippines is ready to work with Russia on clinical trials, vaccine supply, and production but stressed that such cooperative initiative must be “consistent” with testing and health protocols.

Russia recently unveiled its potential vaccine for the coronavirus, reportedly dubbed Sputnik V, with plans to test the product in foreign countries like the Philippines. Some scientists, however, are skeptical about Russia's claim about the vaccine, citing the need for data to determine if it is safe and effective.

Roque said Russia's coronavirus vaccine must still hurdle the regulatory approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He said authorities could allow "compassionate use" of a potential coronavirus drug for limited people but not for mass distribution.

He said the President is grateful for Russia's offer to supply vaccines to the country owing to the friendly relations between them. He said the government has sought clarification if Russia will give the vaccines for free.

"He already recognizes that he has a debt of gratitude because the Russians considered us first for the vaccine," Roque said.

"If Russia had developed this and we did not have the same kind of ties that we do now with Russia, they would not have offered it to us," he added.