President Rodrigo Duterte said late Wednesday he would ask China to withdraw Sinopharm's COVID vaccines from the Philippines and apologized for taking the drug that has yet to be certified for emergency use by local health authorities.
While he accepted criticism for getting vaccinated with the Sinopharm jab, Duterte said it was up to him and his doctors. "It's my life," he said. It was Health Sec. Francisco Duque who administered the vaccine on Duterte late on Monday.
Duterte said he asked China's envoy to the Philippines: "Tanggalin mo na lang. You withdraw all Sinopharm vaccines, 1,000 of them. Huwag ka na lang magpadala ng Sinopharm dito para walang gulo. Sabi ko ibigay mo lang sa amin ‘yong Sinovac na ginagamit sa lahat."
"We are sorry that we committed the things that you are criticizing us for. We accept responsibility. At ako mismo nagpaturok, well, it’s the decision of my doctor. Anyway, it’s my life," Duterte said in a taped speech that was aired on Wednesday before midnight."
Unlike the Sinopharm jab, another China-made vaccine from Sinovac has secured emergency use authorization and is part of the initial rollout. The CoronaVac jabs from Sinovac account for 3.5 million of the total 4.04 million doses in the country's vaccine inventory.
The government initially planned to inoculate 70 million to reach herd immunity, but lowered it to 50 million due to short supply. As of May 5, only 1.7 million Filipinos received the first of two COVID-19 vaccine doses.