The vaccine for the coronavirus must be “safe and accessible” to address the pandemic, Malacañang said Tuesday as the Philippines extends cooperation with Russia on public health. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the country is prepared to work with Russia on clinical trials, vaccine supply and production “subject to our existing laws and local processes.” Russia earlier announced its development of the world’s first coronavirus vaccine and would start distribution initially to medical workers and other risk groups. The vaccine’s approval by Russian regulators however triggered safety warnings from some groups amid reports it has yet to complete phase 3 trials.

President Duterte has already accepted Russia’s offer of its vaccine supply and volunteered to take the first shot as a gesture of trust and gratitude. “The Palace welcomes Russia’s gesture of considering the Philippines in developing and producing safe and accessible COVID-19 vaccines,” Roque said. “This underscores the deepening cooperation between our two countries after President Rodrigo Roa Duterte charted an independent foreign policy course for our nation,” he said. Roque recognized the importance of international cooperation in promoting public health as the world battles the pandemic.

“Cooperation on public health, especially at a time when it is most needed, can be a cornerstone convergence. It is a good opportunity to enhance ties with our key partners,” he said. “We are one with Russia and the rest of the world in finding safe and accessible vaccines to address the COVID-19 pandemic that affected many nations and peoples,” he added.

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