‘No condition set by China for PH access to vaccines’

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    CHINA has asked the Philippines to ensure it will have cold storage facilities for vaccines for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana said yesterday.

    Sta. Romana, who said the Philippines remains a priority recipient of vaccines being developed by China, added there were no conditions attached to China’s

    “It’s not a condition,” he said, adding that it is just a “reminder that if you get a vaccine and you don’t have cold chain storage, it’s useless” as the vaccine would lose its “potency” if it is not properly stored.

    He did not name the vaccine but said the Chinese vaccine would still need the approval of the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) in the Philippines before it can be used or distributed in the country.

    Chinese pharmaceutical company, Sinovac Biotech Ltd. yesterday filed before the FDA its application for clinical trials in the Philippines.

    FDA Director General Enrique Domingo said the application came after the Vaccine Experts Panel of the Department of Science and Technology approved gave its approval to Sinovac.

    Also undergoing evaluation by the experts for possible conduct of clinical trials in the Philippines are the candidate vaccines of US firm Johnson & Johnson – Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute.

    Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the Philippines has the funds for the construction or lease of cold storage facilities.

    Sta. Romana said the commitment to prioritize the Philippines in the distribution of vaccines was made by the Chinese government to President Duterte and it was affirmed during the call of Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian to the President.

    He said mass production of the Chinese-made vaccine is expected to start in China either in November or December.

    He said the prospects are “bright” for the vaccine as clinical trials for one of China’s vaccines showed no adverse or negative effects. He said three to four vaccines are being developed in China.

    Sta. Romana said the vaccine, despite the lack of official approval, has been administered by China to frontliners who are caring for COVID-19 patients, those manning the air and sea ports, and even customs officials.

    He said a city east of Shanghai has also reportedly administered the vaccine already to some residents, while some employees of the pharmaceutical firms involved in the production have volunteered to test the vaccine.

    President Duterte recently said he wants all Filipinos to receive the vaccine but government has funds for only about 20 million Filipinos. He said he would look for more funds.

    Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said proponents of trials for the Japanese flu drug Avigan are having difficulty finding volunteers with COVID-19 cases.

    “There are challenges because there are fewer patients and the presence of other trials because we cannot give Avigan to those already taking other medicines,” she explained.

    Because of the challenges, Vergeire said there is a likelihood that the start of the Avigan trials may be further delayed.

    “If we revise our clinical trial protocols because of these challenges, there is a possibility that there will be another delay,” said Vergeire.

    It was back in August when the Avigan tablets good for 100 patients have been delivered by the Japanese government to the Philippines. — With Gerard Naval