Duterte Volunteers to Publicly Inject Putin's Free COVID-19 Vaccine

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte says his country has been offered a Russian coronavirus vaccine—seemingly for free. He himself has committed to being injected with the product to prove to citizens it is safe.

Duterte said in a televised address Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin had offered to provide the Philippines with a COVID-19 vaccine, and expressed his support for the product being produced in Moscow.

"I will tell President Putin that I have great trust in your studies in combatting [COVID-19] and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," he told viewers.

The controversial president—who last month falsely claimed that face masks could be disinfected by dipping them in gasoline—also said he would be among the first to take the vaccine to prove it is safe for his citizens.

"When it comes to public vaccination—so no one will doubt—I will get injected in public," he said in his Monday address. "I will be the first to get experimented on."

Duterte did not go into detail on the vaccine Russia offered, but Moscow's Gamaleya Institute is working to produce a COVID-19 treatment and distribute it widely by the fall. Bloomberg reported last month that some government officials, oligarchs and Gamaleya staff have already received the experimental vaccine.

The Gamaleya vaccine is being backed by the military and funded by the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund. The Kremlin denied Putin reports has already received the vaccine, with spokesperson Dmitry Peskov suggesting it would unwise to inject the president with an unproven treatment.

The Gamaleya vaccine has completed its phase 1 trial involving some 40 Russian military personnel. Results of phase 1 have not yet been published, but the next stage of the trial has already begun.

Duterte suggested the Russian vaccine would be donated to the Philippines rather than bought, but did not go into detail as to his conversations with Putin. "They want to provide a vaccine. They didn't say, 'pay for it.' I think this is help from President Putin, free," he explained.

Russian officials plan to approve the vaccine this month and begin a mass vaccination program in October. Other nations in line to receive the Gamaleya vaccine include Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

But some health experts have warned the Russian vaccine may not be safe. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hinted this week that Russian and Chinese authorities may be cutting corners in the race for a vaccine.

"I do hope that the Chinese and the Russians are actually testing a vaccine before they are administering the vaccine to anyone," he said in response to the Russian plan to approve its vaccine this month. "Claims of having a vaccine ready to distribute before you do testing I think is problematic at best," he said.

Russia, coronavirus, vaccine, Rodrigo Duterte, Philippines, Putin
An employee is pictured at the production line of Russia's biotech company BIOCAD, which is developing a coronavirus vaccine, at a research center in Siberia, Vektor, in Strelna on May 20, 2020. OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images/Getty