THE PHILIPPINES may have to wait for almost a year before getting Russia’s vaccine against the coronavirus, the presidential palace said on Thursday.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who volunteered to get a shot of the Sputnik V vaccine, may have to wait until May next year, if the drug is proven to be safe and effective, his Spokesman Harry L. Roque said at an online news briefing.

“It’s not a metaphorical statement, he’s willing to undergo it,” he added.

The Philippines and Russia seek to run phase 3 clinical trials of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) vaccine from October to March, Mr. Roque said, adding that the local Food and Drug Administration might approve the drug by April.

The clinical trials will involve as many as 3,000 volunteer patients.

“Russia is open to transfer technology for local manufacturing of the vaccine,” Mr. Roque said in mixed English and Filipino. “They want other countries to help in manufacturing their vaccine.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday said his country had developed the first vaccine for the COVID-19 virus.

Critics have questioned the safety of the experimental vaccine since vaccines take years to develop.

The Department of Health reported 4,002 more coronavirus infections on Thursday, bringing the total to 147,526.

The death toll rose to 2,426 after 23 more patients died, while recoveries increased by 1,403 to 70,387, it said in a bulletin.

There were 74,713 active cases, 91% of which were mild, 7% did not show symptoms and less that 1% each were severe and critical, the agency said.

Of the new cases, 2,445 came from Metro Manila, 319 from Laguna, 212 from Cebu, 142 from Rizal, and 101 from Cavite, it added.

The 75-year-old Mr. Duterte on Monday said Russia had offered to give the Philippines COVID-19 vaccines, adding that he would volunteer to get injected in public.

He thanked Russia for supposedly offering to send the vaccines to the Philippines for free. He claimed the Russian vaccines could arrive by September or October.

The Department of Health (DoH) on Monday said it had allotted P2.4 billion for COVID-19 vaccines in its budget for 2021 and this could change depending on the price.

China is the other country Mr. Duterte mentioned in the past that had pledged to prioritize the Philippines for coronavirus vaccine supplies once they develop one.

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

Mr. Roque earlier said the Russian vaccine must first be approved by local regulators even if it passes in Russia. Local Universities will also conduct clinical studies to check if the vaccine is harmless, he added.

The DoH on Wednesday said four Philippines hospitals would also join the trial for the Japanese flu drug Avigan as treatment for the coronavirus. 

These are the Philippine General Hospital, Sta. Ana Hospital, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Quirino Memorial and Medical Center.

The trials would run for nine months and the government had taken delivery of the drugs.

The trial for the drug, which will start on Aug. 17, will be given to a hundred patients aged 18 to 74.

Patients who will participate must agree with the use of contraceptives and have no kidney and heart problems, among other requirements.

Japan in April said it would send the drug manufactured by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical Co., Ltd. to 38 countries, including the Philippines after clinical trials.

Mr. Duterte put back Metro Manila and nearby provinces under a strict lockdown until Aug. 18 after a fresh surge in infections. — Gillian M. Cortez and Vann Marlo M. Villegas