COVID vaccine may be available by 2nd quarter next year: DOST

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    A VACCINE for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may be available for distribution in the country by the second quarter of 2021, an official of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said yesterday.

    “If we are talking about availability en masse, we believe this is going to be happening in the second quarter of next year,” Science Undersecretary Rowena Guevarra said in a virtual briefing.

    Guevarra, undersecretary for research and development and chairwoman of the country’s sub-technical working group on vaccines for COVID-19, said clinical trials for proposed vaccines are expected to start in the fourth quarter of this year.

    Malacañang early this week said a joint clinical trial for Sputnik V, a vaccine against COVID-19 being developed by Russia, may start in September and end by March 2021. If the clinical trials, to be funded by Russia, will yield positive results, the vaccine would be registered with the Food and Drug Administration by April 2021, and tested by President Duterte by May 2021.

    Nina Gloriani, head of a DOST panel of experts overseeing the COVID-19 vaccines development, said the Philippines has been talking with other countries and vaccine developers like Sinovac and Sinopharm from China and the University of Oxford from the United Kingdom.

    On Sputnik V, she said the panel is still waiting for the complete dossier of the drug.

    Dr. Jaime Montoya, executive director of the DOST’s Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), told the briefing that the Philippines, being a low middle-income economy, cannot develop a vaccine because of lack of funds and facilities.

    But the country, according to Guevarra, is set to establish a Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines, which will handle research on infectious diseases and on viruses affecting humans, animals, and plants. It will eventually develop vaccines and medicines in response to the emerging needs of the country.

    ACCESS TO VACCINES

    The World Health Organization on Tuesday urged countries to join a global pact aimed at ensuring less wealthy countries have access to COVID-19 vaccines, warning about the risks from so-called “vaccine nationalism.”

    Wealthier nations have focused on securing vaccines for their own citizens, striking deals for the first doses even as data has yet to prove the vaccines to be effective.

    Governments including United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the European Union have spent tens of billions of dollars on deals with vaccine makers such as Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca Plc and others. The United States alone has committed nearly $11 billion for development, testing, manufacture and stockpiling of hundreds of millions of doses.

    Russia and China are also working on vaccines and have already begun vaccinating some of their citizens.

    The WHO has expressed concern that wealthier countries hoarding vaccines for their own citizens could impede efforts to end the pandemic.

    “We need to prevent vaccine nationalism,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a Tuesday virtual briefing. “Sharing finite supplies strategically and globally is actually in each country’s national interest.” – With Reuters