Duterte asks China to pull out Sinopharm vaccines from PH

Published May 6, 2021, 12:26 AM

by Raymund Antonio

President Duterte ordered the withdrawal of China-made Sinopharm coronavirus vaccines from the Philippines because they have not been granted an emergency use authorization by the country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his “Talk to the People” on May 5, 2021 (RTVM Screenshot)

The Chief Executive received the first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine on Monday, May 3. The vaccine, developed by Beijing Biological Products Institute under state-owned China National Biotec Group (CNBG), is said to be 79.34 percent effective.

During a televised address to the nation aired late Wednesday night, Duterte said he personally asked Chinese Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian to withdraw some 1,000 doses that Beijing donated.

“Sinabi ko kay ambassador criticize nila kasi hindi nga dumaan ng examination iyong Sinopharm. Sabi ko tanggalin mo na lang (I told the ambassador that they are criticizing it because Sinopharm did not go through an examination. I told him just withdraw it). You withdraw all Sinophram vaccines, 1,000 of them,” the President shared of his conversation with the Chinese envoy.

Sinopharm faces critical questions about the possible gaps in the late-stage phase 3 trials. Sinopharm was sent overseas even before it finished its final trials.

It has not received approval from the FDA, although it issued a compassionate use permit for the sake of the Presidential Security Group (PSG), which took jabs of the Sinopharm vaccine back in February.

Duterte noted that high-ranking Chinese officials got inoculated with Sinopharm. It is even being used in Brazil and Indonesia. However, if it will be a problem, he elected not to have the 1,000 donated jabs distributed anymore.

“Pero kung ganun naman maingay withdraw na lang para maghintay na lang tayo ng Sinovac and others. Tutal 1,000 vaccines lang iyan eh (But if there are criticisms, we better withdraw and just wait for Sinovac and others. Besides, it’s only 1,000 vaccines). It would not make a dent on the supply,” he added.

Vaccine experts around the world have been largely critical of Sinopharm’s vaccine, which are being distributed in developing countries because of the inaccessibility of Western-made COVID-19 vaccines.

In January, a Taiwanese vaccine expert, who called Sinopharm the “most unsafe vaccine in the world,” warned about the “more likely to occur” severe side effects of Sinopharm such as high blood pressure, loss of vision, loss of taste, delayed menstruation, and urinary incontinence.