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Availability of COVID-19 vaccine by December not yet certain —DOH

Despite the recent development in Russia regarding a vaccine against COVID-19, a Philippine health official on Wednesday said it is still not certain if such a vaccine will be available locally by December.

“Hindi pa po natin masabi kasi nasa Phase 3 pa lang ng clinical trials. Makikita po natin kung paano magpo-progress ito,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told Unang Hirit when asked on the possibility of the vaccine's availability by December.

Vergeire said the Philippines is still waiting for the results of the trials of the Russian vaccine. “Itong bakuna galing Russia... ito ay nasa Phase 3 ng clinical trials. Kailangang tapusin muna Phase 3 clinical trials,” she said.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia became the first country in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, calling it Sputnik V.

A day prior, President Rodrigo Duterte said he has accepted Putin's offer to provide the country with a vaccine against COVID-19 and that he is willing to try it on during clinical trials.

Amid the mounting number of COVID-19 cases and the worst economic slowdown in years, Duterte had expressed confidence that the situation will be back to normal by December.

“Hindi pa po nakakapaglabas ng resulta ang Phase 3 ng clinical trials rito, although sinasabi nila na maganda at okay naman siya. Kailangang antayin po natin ang magiging resulta,” Vergeire said of the Russian vaccine.

Sputnik V vaccine has been developed by the Gamaleya research institute in coordination with Russia defense ministry.

6 possible vaccines

Vergeire also said aside from the one in Russia, the country is also considering five other possible vaccines from other countries. She said experts from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) are studying which of the six is best for the Philippines.

“Iyong DOST, may vaccine experts po tayo roon. May anim na bakuna na all over the world na nasa Phase 3 ng clinical trials,” Vergeire said.

“Nag-meeting kami last week, at pinakita nila ang iba’t ibang characteristics ng bawat bakuna, ang main function nito, kung saan makakatulong at saka iyong disadvantage, kung ilan iyong masu-supply ng bawat manufacturer,” she added.

The Philippines has recorded 139,538 COVID-19 cases so far. Of this number, 68,432 recovered while 2,312 died. The number of active COVID-19 cases, meanwhile, is at 68,794.

WHO eyes review

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, said any WHO stamp of approval on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate would require a rigorous safety data review, after Russia announced Tuesday it had approved a vaccine.

"We are in close contact with the Russian health authorities and discussions are ongoing with respect to possible WHO pre-qualification of the vaccine," said the United Nations health agency's spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.

A total of 168 candidate vaccines are being worked on around the world, according to a WHO overview published Tuesday.

Of those, 28 have progressed to the various phases of being tested on humans, of which six are the furthest ahead, having reached Phase 3 of clinical trials. —KBK, GMA News