Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Monday to prioritise buying a Covid-19 vaccine to be made available by Russia or China, taking a swipe at western pharmaceutical firms asking for advance payment for their offers. South Korea meanwhile said it will secure early supply of vaccines from international manufacturers for 30 million people. Duterte expressed optimism that the Southeast Asian country, which has recorded the region’s highest number of coronavirus cases at nearly 266,000, would be “back to normal” by December, pinning his hopes on the availability of vaccines. “We will give preference to Russia and China provided that their vaccine is as good as any other in the market,” he said in a late-night televised address. He added that any vaccine purchase will have to undergo a bidding process. Explainer | Are Asian countries choosing US or China for the Covid-19 vaccine? The Philippine government has had talks with a number of potential vaccine suppliers, including Russia, China, and manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna. It also planned to hold talks with Australian biotech giant CSL. Moscow and Manila meanwhile have agreed to work on clinical trials for Russia’s vaccine. Duterte singled out China, which he said was unlike other countries seeking a “reservation fee” or advance payment. “The one good thing about China is you do not have to beg, you do not have to plead,” he said. “One thing wrong about the western countries, it’s all profit, profit, profit.” Duterte did not name any pharmaceutical companies seeking advance payment, but he warned their representatives in Manila to go home or “I’ll kick your arse”. He said the Philippines’ procurement law prohibits the government from buying anything that is non-existent or has yet to be produced. “They want you to finance their research and the perfection of the vaccine,” he said. “They want cash advance before they deliver the vaccine. If that’s the case, then all of us will die.” South Korea will secure early supply of coronavirus vaccines for 30 million people, or 60 per cent of its population, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. While authorities would like to inoculate the country’s entire population of 52 million, Chung said uncertainty around the vaccine’s safety, efficacy and development was limiting South Korea’s investment. The government will negotiate with the relevant international organisations and vaccine makers to secure the early supply of the Covid-19 vaccines and would buy more as the development proceeds. In August, South Korea said it planned to join the COVAX facility, a global Covid-19 vaccine allocation plan co-led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that aims to help buy and fairly distribute the shots. South Korea will purchase 20 million doses of vaccines from the COVAX scheme, available for 10 million people, and 40 million doses from private drug makers, the health authorities said in a statement. From Australia to India and the Philippines, are lockdowns working? South Korea’s SK Bioscience in July agreed to manufacture AstraZeneca’s experimental vaccine, that has shown promise against the coronavirus, to help the British company build global supplies. Novavax last month separately said SK Bioscience, a unit of SK Chemicals, would manufacture a component of the US drug developer’s experimental coronavirus vaccine in a bid to boost its supply. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 106 new coronavirus cases as of Monday midnight, which brought the total number of infections to 22,391, and the total Covid-19 death tally to 367. Meanwhile, large swathes of the world population probably will not have access to a Covid-19 vaccine even if an effective one is developed in the next year, Singapore Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said. Distribution of vaccines will be a “huge challenge”, Tharman said on Monday at the Singapore Summit virtual conference, adding that cheap, quick, and non-invasive testing and better-understood protocols such as social distancing should help to mitigate transmission until then. “Covid will not be over,” he said in response to a question on how he sees the situation a year from now. “Don’t think of vaccines as a silver bullet.” Singapore plans new layer of coronavirus contact tracing to enable larger events Tharman’s comments come as developers of potential vaccines have recently announced positive news, boosting risk markets. Pfizer’s chief executive officer said it is likely the US will deploy a Covid-19 vaccine to the public before year-end, while the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca have restarted a UK trial of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine after it was halted over concerns about a participant who fell ill. Tharman also repeated comments that the pandemic is adding to other pre-existing trends that are putting emerging markets at risk.