VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte repeats false claim that vaccines are made from human body

Read this fact check in Filipino

In his latest public address on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte again wrongly claimed that vaccines are made from the human body.

STATEMENT

Toward the end of his recorded address aired on Aug. 25, Duterte assured Filipinos that the government is "doing everything" to address the health crisis. He then said:

Hintayin na lang natin iyong bakuna. Mayroong medisina galing Japan pati itong Remdesivir pati Avigan...ito iyong sa lagnat; hindi ito iyong gamot. Ang gamot iyong vaccine. Ang vaccine ay gawa sa katawan ng tao.”

(Let’s just wait for the vaccine. There is medicine from Japan -- including Remdesivir and Avigan, which are used for fever; but these are not the cure. The cure is the vaccine. A vaccine is made from the human body.)

Source: RTVMalacanang, WATCH: President Rodrigo Roa #Duterte Public Address, Aug. 25, 2020, watch from 49:24 to 50:03

FACT

A vaccine is a product that contains a “killed” or “weakened” version, or parts, of a bacteria or virus that causes a particular disease, such as COVID-19. It is used to train the body’s immune response to produce antibodies used to fight off pathogens, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). (SeeVERA FILES FACT CHECK: Five things you need to know about COVID-19 antibodies)

Although vaccines are not made from the human body, people still play a role in their development, particularly in clinical trials. Candidate vaccines are usually tested on qualified individuals to see their efficacy and possible side effects, which are usually done in three stages prior to government approval. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Five questions on COVID-19 vaccines, answered)


This infographic was first published by VERA Files Fact Check in May 2020.

There are at least 173 candidate vaccines for COVID-19, with 31 already in various stages of clinical trials as of Aug. 25, according to WHO’s Draft landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines.

Among the frontrunners already in stage three trials, based on the WHO document, are the candidate vaccines of the United Kingdom-based University of Oxford and British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm Astrazeneca, and those of Chinese companies Sinovac Biotech Ltd., and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products with Sinopharm Group.

Russia surprised the world on Aug. 11 when it approved for public use a COVID-19 vaccine that has yet to complete its clinical trials, claiming it is the “world’s first” approved jab against COVID-19. Duterte has already accepted Russia’s offer to participate in its phase three trials from October 2020 to March 2021 and to supply the Sputnik vaccine to the Philippines.

However, the vaccine, developed by Moscow-based Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, met skepticism from experts, noting, among others, that it was registered after less than two months of research. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: The COVID-19 vaccine from Russia, in context)

Duterte made a similar false claim in July when he said a vaccine is an “antibody produced by the [human] body to fight infection.” While the two are interrelated, they are not one and the same. Antibodies are proteins produced by the body’s immune system when stimulated by a vaccine -- which contains either a “weakened” or killed version of the pathogen, or a part of it -- or through natural infection. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte flip-flops on communist threat, makes wrong claim on vaccines)

In his first media briefing about the COVID-19 crisis on Feb. 3, Duterte downplayed the problem, telling 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

RTVMalacanang, WATCH: President Rodrigo Roa #Duterte Public Address, Aug. 25, 2020,

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Basics of Vaccines, Accessed Aug. 26, 2020

World Health Organization, Q&A on vaccines, Accessed Aug. 27, 2020

World Health Organization, MODULE 1 – Pre-licensure vaccine safety, Accessed Aug. 27, 2020

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vaccine Testing and Approval Process, Accessed Aug. 2, 020

World Health Organization, Draft landscape of COVID-19 candidate vaccines, Accessed Aug. 27, 2020

Russian vaccine

Official website of Sputnik V, About Us | Official website vaccine against COVID-19 Sputnik V., Accessed Aug. 27, 2020

PTV, WATCH: President Rodrigo Roa #Duterte Public Address, July 7, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, Philippines may acquire COVID-19 vaccine through loan, says President Duterte, Aug. 18, 2020

RTVMalacanang, Briefing on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus - Acute Respiratory Disease 2/3/2020, 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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