Not too late for Philippines to develop COVID-19 vaccines —DOH, DOST
With the Philippines about to enter year three of the pandemic, government officials said on Wednesday that it is not too late for the country to develop its own COVID-19 vaccines that are up to international standards.
During a Laging Handa briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the Virology Institute of the Philippines will be complementary to the DOH.
“Sila po ay magfo-focus talaga sa pag-aaral ng mga viruses, sa pag-aral po na makagawa tayo ng mga bakuna,” Vergeire said.
(They will focus on studying viruses and research that will help us develop vaccines.)
When questioned if the Philippines can keep up with other countries, Vergeire said there are many excellent scientists in the country.
"Sa tingin po namin, kayang-kaya po ng ating bansa. Kayang-kaya po ng ating scientist dito sa Pilipinas nitong mga sinasabing vaccines and also not [just] that, but also studying nitong mga iba't ibang organismo na nag-cause ng sakit sa ating bansa," she said.
(We think that our country is capable. Our scientists here in the Philippines are capable of not just developing vaccines but also studying these various organisms that cause disease.)
Meanwhile, DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said that it is vital for the Philippines to establish its own virology and vaccine center because it already has a population of about 110 million. It will also help with the development of other vaccines such as for flu and the coronavirus disease.
“Kung kikilos tayo ngayon, ay hindi tayo masyadong mahuhuli. Pero alam mo, hindi naman nangyayari ‘yan sa isang iglap kaya kailangan nating itayo ‘yung facility natin at magsimula na ng mga research,” he said.
(If we start working now, it will not be too late for us. But you know, this doesn't happen in an instant so we have to build our facility and start researching now.)
In July 2021, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading measures seeking to establish the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and a virology research institute in the Philippines.
The House Bill 9559 or the Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP) Act aims to create the country's premier research and development institute in the field of virology, encompassing all areas in viruses and viral diseases in humans, plants, and animals.
The VIP shall also act as a venue for scientists, both here and abroad, to work collaboratively to study viruses of agricultural, industrial, clinical, and environmental importance.
Presidential Legislative Assistant Undersecretary Orville Ballitoc said that the establishment of the VIP is among the top priorities of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
“We are also happy to inform everyone na doon po sa Senado, ngayong araw, ang CDC ay i-sponsoran ng committee ni Senator Pia Cayetano,” he said.
(We are also happy to inform everyone that the Senate today has sponsored the CDC through the committee of Senator Pia Cayetano.)
De la Peña said that for the construction of the said facility, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has already given the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) P50 million for its detailed design.
The DBM in 2021 also allocated around P300 million for research and development, while in 2022, some P150 million was provided to the DPWH for the initial phase of the facility’s construction in a green zone in Clark, he added.
“‘Pag naumpisahan na ‘yan, sisiguraduhin natin na mabigyan ng prayoridad dahil ito naman ay napakataas ng benepisyo na maidudulot versus the cost that we will invest,” he said.
(Once this starts, we will make sure to give priority to it because this will give plenty of benefits as compared to the cost that we will invest.)
For the personnel, de la Peña said that they already have seven scientists to work in the VIP and more are yet to come.
“Kami naman sa DOST ay pinapalakas namin ang aming pharmaceutical center na siya ring tutulong dito sa VIP [We at DOST are strengthening our pharmaceutical center which will also help in the VIP],” he added. — BM, GMA News