Govt. expects first dibs on COVID-19 vaccine if 'BFF' China produces it

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and President Rodrigo Duterte (R)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 16) — China will likely prioritize the Philippines in securing supply of COVID-19 vaccines being developed there, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Thursday.

"Inaasahan natin, dahil BFF (best friends forever) naman tayo ng China, na kapag sila'y nagkaroon ng gamot na ganyan ay unahin naman nila tayo. Alangan namang unahin pa nila ang mga kalaban nila," Roque said in a Thursday briefing when asked about his expectations on how fast will the Philippines secure supply of the much-needed vaccine. 

[Translation: We expect that they will prioritize us if ever they find a cure to the virus, after all we're best friends. They wouldn't give the supply to their foes first.]

Three COVID-19 vaccines have been cleared for clinical trials in China, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency. The virus, believed to have been transmitted from animals to humans, first sprouted in Wuhan City, before eventually spreading to the rest of China to 184 other countries and territories.

The United States, Spain, and Italy lead the tally of infections out of the more than 2 million cases worldwide.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said that he will only lift the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon once a cure against the novel coronavirus becomes available. He cited that a giant drugmaker is currently developing the vaccine which may be out in the market soon.

During his Monday night report on the government's COVID-19 response, Duterte thanked Chinese President Xi Jinping who he said sent him a note expressing full support for Philippine policies to combat the deadly disease. He also cleared Xi of any blame for the global pandemic.

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But Roque, along with other Cabinet officials, said he did not know which company Duterte was referring to, but said that the Philippines can leverage on its warm ties with China if the cure comes from laboratories there.

Healthcare institutions worldwide have been using medicines meant to cure other diseases like HIV on COVID-19 patients. Locally, the state-run Philippine General Hospital has spearheaded experimental plasma therapy, which infuses antibodies from blood donations of recovered persons on struggling patients. The World Health Organization has also backed the use of antibodies to treat a COVID-19 patient.

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