PRESIDENT Duterte said he is looking for more funds so that government will be able to provide all 113 million Filipinos with vaccines against the coronavirus diseases (COVID-19).
Duterte in August said government has secured funds for the purchase of vaccines for some 20 million Filipinos, with priority to be given to the poor. He has also said he would not reopen schools until a vaccine was available.
“I have the money already for the vaccine but hahanap pa ako ng maraming pera because you know there are now 113 million Filipinos … to me, ideally, all should have the vaccine without exception… (I have the money already for the vaccine but I will look for more money because, you know, there are now 113 million Filipinos … to me, ideally, all should have the vaccine without exception),”he said on Wednesday night during The his weekly “Talk to the People” address.
He reiterated that the first to receive the vaccine would be those from the poor sector, including the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), followed by the members of the police and the military, and the frontliners.
Duterte said he is leaning towards vaccine from China or Russia.
Prior to his public address, the President received outgoing Russian ambassador Igor Khovaev who said Russia is eyeing the establishment of a pharmaceutical facility in the country.
“I just had a talk with the ambassador of Russia… and they said that Russia is coming in… and they would want to establish here.” he said.
The President also said he trusts China, amid questions about the safety of the vaccine being developed by China.
The Food and Drug Administration yesterday said Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech Ltd. is now a step closer to being able to conduct Phase III of its clinical trials in the Philippines for its candidate vaccine.
In a forum, FDA Director General Enrique Domingo said Sinovac’s vaccine has been approved by the Vaccine Experts Panel of the Department of Science and Technology.
However, Sinovac’s vaccine and its clinical trial protocols must still pass the Single Joint Research Ethics Board of the Department of Health, he said.
“The parallel evaluation of the ethics board, I believe, is still in progress. It is necessary for any study to also have the approval of the Ethics Board,” he said.
After Sinovac gets the endorsement of the experts panel and the ethics board, it can file an application for the conduct of a clinical trial.
“We haven’t seen the application yet so we don’t know the details and it’s really a matter of when the submission is given to the FDA. It is possible that they will submit their application next week or two weeks from now,” Domingo said.
Asked if Sinovac can start clinical trials by next month, Domingo said, “It’s possible. But it will really depend on when they will submit their application.”
A Sinovac spokesman confirmed that materials had been provided to the Philippines in the hope of starting Phase 3 trials, but gave no time frame.
Jaime Montoya, a member of an expert panel screening applications for clinical trials and medications, told Reuters a technical evaluation of Sinovac had been completed and results already submitted to an ethics board for review.
The Philippines is also evaluating COVID-19 vaccines of Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen for late-stage trials and is talking to US drugmaker Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc as potential suppliers. – With Gerard Naval and Reuters