Despite clinical trials, PH needs to compete with other countries for vaccine

Joining clinical trials for potential coronavirus vaccines will not be a guarantee that the Philippines will immediately get the needed supply once the immunization is proven effective. 

This was admitted by an official from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on Wednesday, September 9, as the agency defended its proposed P23.89-billion budget for 2021 before the House committee on appropriations.

“Basta po ang isang vaccine developer gumawa ng clinical trial sa isang bansa, they will make that vaccine available. Ang tanong lang po dito is kaagad ho ba,” said Dr Jaime Montoya, executive director of the DOST’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.

(When a vaccine developer conducts a clinical trial in a specific country, they will make that vaccine available there. The question is just how soon that will be.)

Montoya was asked by Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, as well as committee vice chairperson and Muntinlupa City Representative Ruffy Biazon if Filipinos would be prioritized by COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers since the country is set to join clinical trials by October.

Montoya, however, said this would depend on the global demand for the COVID-19 vaccine and how each country would negotiate.

“Kasi alam natin, na itong panahon ng COVID-19, lahat po ng bansa ay nag-uunahan na makakuha ng bakuna. Ang kasiguraduhan lang niyan ay siguradong magkakaroon tayo,” Montoya said.

(We know that during this time of COVID-19, all countries are in a race to get the vaccine. The only guarantee that we have is that we will have access to it.)

“Ngayon depende na po ‘yan sa negosasyon na maaring gawin ng pamahalaan sa mga vaccine developer ng mga bakuna na magiging successful kung paano po tayo mauuna sa pila. Pero definitely po, magkakaroon tayo ng access sa bakunang ’yon,” he said. 

(But as to whether we would be prioritized would depend on our government’s negotiations with the developers of the vaccines that would later be proven effective. But definitely, we will have access to those vaccines.)

The DOST – which is leading the government’s sub-technical working group on vaccine development – earlier considered participating in Phase 3 clinical trials for at least 5 vaccine candidates by October. (READ: After Duterte vouches for Russia, DOST vows all COVID-19 vaccines 'on equal footing’)

These include 3 from Sinovac, Sinopharm, and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences in China, as well as two being developed by Adimmune Corporation and Academia Sinica in Taiwan.  

Clinical trials for the 5 selected vaccines will take place alongside the World Health Organization solidarity trial for a vaccine once it begins. 

The Philippines is also eyeing to join by October the Phase 3 clinical trials for Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine, even as safety concerns have been raised by the medical community.

The country’s approach to COVID-19 vaccination is a stark contrast to that of Indonesia, whose government is targeting to develop its own vaccine by mid-2021

The Duterte administration has long been facing criticism over its response to the coronavirus crisis.

Months into the pandemic, COVID-19 cases are still on the rise in the Philippines, with total infections now close to 242,000. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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