VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte flip-flops on communist threat, makes wrong claim on vaccines

Read this fact check in Filipino

As petitions contesting the newly enacted Anti-Terror Law pile up, President Rodrigo Duterte went from tagging communists as the country’s “number one threat” to saying they are the “least” of its worries.

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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte flip-flops on communist threat, makes wrong claim on vaccines from VERA Files on Vimeo.

During his July 7 briefing, Duterte also made a wrong claim about how vaccines work.

STATEMENT

Reminding the public that while some areas have already eased quarantine restrictions, the threat of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) -- which causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) -- persists, the president said:

“The only thing that would make it useless actually would be a vaccine. But the vaccine is an antibody produced by the body to fight [infection]. Ibang klase ito, galing sa katawan natin (This is a different kind, this is from our bodies).”

Source: Presidential Communications Operations Office, Talk to the People of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), July 7, 2020, watch from 25:30 to 25:55

FACT

Vaccines and antibodies, while interrelated, are two different things.

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A vaccine is a product that contains a “killed” or “weakened” version, or parts of the germ or virus that causes a particular disease (like COVID-19). This is then used to train a person’s immune system to produce antibodies so that he or she develops immunity without having to get the disease first. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Five things you need to know about COVID-19 antibodies)

Once a vaccine is administered to an individual, the body’s adaptive immune system “studies” the “foreign and potentially dangerous” substance and “figure[s] out the best way to deal with the invader,” molecular biologist Denise Mirano-Bascos, whose research interest is immunology, told VERA Files in an earlier interview. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Five questions on COVID-19 vaccines, answered)

This process involves the production of antibodies, or proteins produced by the immune system, that have the ability to recognize and neutralize the foreign substance.

In his first media briefing about the COVID-19 crisis on Feb. 3, Duterte downplayed the issue, “assuring” the public that the virus will just “die a natural death” even without a vaccine. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte says he’s been warning of ‘deadly’ COVID-19 from the beginning. Not quite.)


Sources

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Talk to the People of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), July 7, 2020

RTVMalacanang, Talk to the People of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), June 22, 2020

PTV, CPP-NPA, nananatiling teroristang grupo, April 29, 2018

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Talk to the People of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), April 23, 2020

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Basics of Vaccines, Accessed July 9, 2020

World Health Organization, Q&A on vaccines, Aug. 26, 2019

U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute, Antibody, Accessed July 9, 2020

RTVMalacanang, Briefing on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus - Acute Respiratory Disease, Feb. 3, 2020


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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