French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi on Friday, May 29, said that equal priority will be given to all countries should COVID-19 vaccines become available.
During a virtual press briefing, Dr Jean-Antoine Zinsou, general manager of Sanofi Philippines, said that they would follow the scientific, as well as, the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on how the vaccines would be allocated should this become available.
"There will be no favoritism. For sure we will match the requirements and expectations set by the WHO," Zinsou said.
Zinsou is a French physician who specializes in emergency and catastrophe management. He has been working in the field of vaccines for over 15 years.
According to Zinsou, Sanofi is not yet on the stage of having clinical trials involving volunteers. "What we are currently [doing] is defining the specifications of the candidate vaccines," he said.
Zinsou said that Sanofi targets to produce 600 million doses per year and can ramp up its production to 1 billion doses to cover the worldwide demand.
Sanofi was mired in controversy in the Philippines after allegations that linked its dengue vaccine Dengvaxia to the deaths of children. Since the vaccine’s ban the Philippines has declared a national dengue epidemic, creating a public health dilemma as infection rates soar. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Dengvaxia scare: How viral rumors caused outbreaks)
Zinsou said that based on their projections, the COVID-19 vaccine would be available in 18 to 24 months.
While waiting for the vaccine, Zinsou advised countries to start preparing COVID-19 vaccine strategies.
"The countries should get prepared which population should benefit from the vaccines and how these vaccines will be administered," Zinsou said.
According to Zinsou, countries should have a specific working group dedicated to working and studying how the vaccines would be administered to the population.
"Each country has to have a clear picture of epidemiological data to define which population is more at risk and which population should be prioritized," Zinsou said.
In the Philippines, this is the task of the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) under the health department, said DOH Undersecretary Maria Vergeire in a press briefing on Thursday, May 28.
"They survey the scene, the landscape, kung ano na ang mayroon ng bagong teknolohiya at nagbibigay sila ng rekomendasyon sa (what are the new technologies and they give their recommendations to the) Department of Health," Vergeire said.
Last April, WHO acting country representative Dr Socorro Escalante advised the Department of Health (DOH) to jump start in reviewing regulations involved in approving and using vaccines.
"Vaccine development would really take time so for the meantime, we would encourage the country to prepare its regulatory processes in terms of assessment and evaluation of the vaccines and speeding up the registration of vaccines made in other countries and also to deploy the vaccines," Escalante said in a mix of English and Filipino.
During Friday’s virtual briefing, Zinsou said the Philippines should generate epidemiological data as early as now so it could define which criteria will be used in administering the vaccine.
"Prepare the population to understand why some will have some access and others won’t have access to the vaccine. [It will] take time to convince them that this prioritization is the best way to handle this public health threat," Zinsou said.
There are now 110 candidate vaccines for COVID-19, which the DOH is eyeing to be given primarily to “vulnerable” sectors of the population such as pregnant women, those who are immunocompromised, health workers, and the elderly once the vaccines become available. (READ: How can the Philippines secure enough drugs or vaccines against coronavirus?)
As of Thursday, the Philippines recorded 15,588 cases of coronavirus, with 921 deaths and 3,598 recoveries. – Rappler.com