It turned out that President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to receive his second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
This clarification was made by Presidential Security Group (PSG) chief Jesus Durante III four hours after his initial statements over government television Friday, June 25, 2021, that Duterte already got his second jab. The President received the first dose on May 3, 2021. Durante had said Duterte received the second dose 14 days later. He later took back this statement.
In his televised press briefing Monday, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte has not received his second dose. Roque was not clear as to the reasons for the delay except to say that the President’s antibodies were already high. The vaccine increases the number of antibodies in the body to guard against infection from the Sars-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19. Roque did not offer any other explanation.
This error in reporting by Durante raises several questions. What then was Duterte waiting for? If he is delaying his second dose, is he not going against his own call for Filipinos to get fully vaccinated soon? Will not his hesitation add to the fears of those skeptical of the vaccines?
When Duterte got his first shot, Sinopharm was authorized only by a compassionate use permit in the country. If Duterte was waiting for a Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of Sinopharm, well, the agency granted emergency use approval for the 10,000 doses of donated Sinopharm vaccines from China last June 7. He could have taken one for his second dose. But eight weeks have passed since Duterte received his first dose.
The World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on the Sinopharm vaccine said: “WHO recommends an interval of three to four weeks between the first and second dose... If the administration of the second dose is delayed beyond four weeks, it should be given at the earliest possible opportunity. It is recommended that all vaccinated individuals receive two doses.”
So, it is not for lack of FDA approval. And it is unlikely that supply of Sinopharm is his reason for delaying his second jab as the vaccine is one of two Chinese vaccines (Sinovac being the other one) made available in the Philippines.
Duterte’s silence in not explaining why he has not taken his second dose does not help boost the government’s call for Filipinos to get vaccinated and, for those who already got their first jab, to return for their second dose to complete their protection. Duterte himself even threatened to arrest those who refused to be vaccinated.
The correction made by Durante made it clear that Duterte has not yet received his second dose, but it shouldn’t end there. Duterte or his officials on his behalf have to state the reasons for postponing his second dose beyond the WHO recommended three to four weeks from his first shot.
Without the explanation, his call to get fully vaccinated carries no weight with the unvaccinated Filipinos.