FDA says 'best case scenario' of COVID-19 vaccine in PH is April 2021

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Friday, September 25, that the earliest possible availability of a coronavirus vaccine in the Philippines would be by April 2021.

"The best case scenario, if clinical trials are completed by December or January, and a company would file an application, then it's possible that by April 2021 that we will have an approved vaccine," FDA Director General Eric Domingo said in a virtual press briefing Friday morning.

Domingo was asked about the target set by Malacañang for the vaccine development. He said: "Talagang best case scenario 'yon, 3 to 6 months magiging 3 months." (This is really a best case scenario, the 3 to 6 months can be 3 months.)

However, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Peña, who was also in the briefing, took a more cautious tone.

By his estimation, Dela Peña said he preferred a conservative timeline of at least 6 months.

Phase 3 of vaccine trials, which involves testing it to a bigger population sample, usually takes 3 to 6 months.

Dela Peña told reporters that the Philippines has signed 6 Confidentiality Data Agreements (CDA) with foreign pharmaceutical companies.

During the briefing, Domingo also warned local government units (LGUs) planning to join coronavirus vaccine clinical trials to first get the clearance of FDA.

The health department earlier said that large-scale clinical trials under the World Health Organization’s solidarity trials for a potential COVID-19 vaccine may start by the end of October.

WHO solidarity trials will take place alongside independent trials for other vaccines being eyed by the Philippines’ vaccine expert panel headed by the Department of Science and Technology. 

These include 3 vaccines being developed by China (including front-runners Sinopharm and Sinovac), as well as two from Taiwan. State scientists are also reviewing documents on Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

The Russian vaccine has been widely criticized after President Vladimir Putin approved it prior to extensive clinical trials to prove that it was safe and effective.

In an unprecedented effort, over 100 vaccines are being developed across multiple countries to accelerate a process that would typically take years to find an effective vaccine. 

According to the New York Times, 11 potential vaccines are already in phase 3 trials as of September 24.

As of Thursday, the Philippines still has the most number of COVID-19 infections in Southeast Asia at 296,755 confirmed cases, despite having one of the longest lockdowns in the world. – Rappler.com

Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol is a multimedia reporter for Rappler, covering health, education, and social welfare. He first joined Rappler as a social media producer in 2016.