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Russia's vaccine against COVID-19 needs further study, says Duque

Russian vaccine against COVID-19 Sputnik V Francisco Duque

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III is not giving yet the Russian vaccine against COVID-19 a go signal, saying more study and information are still needed. 

“Depende pa ‘yan. We have to learn more about it,” Duque said when asked to comment about President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement that he has accepted Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer to provide the country with a vaccine against COVID-19, and that he is willing to try it during clinical trials.

The Russian health ministry called the vaccine "Sputnik V" — in reference to the world's first satellite, Sputnik, launched by the Soviet Union on Oct. 4, 1957 — said it was approved by Russia after less than two months of human testing.

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

“Wala pa tayong documents, we need more information,” Duque said.

Duque agreed with Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire who earlier said that the DOH is reserving its evaluation on the Russian vaccine since it is still under Phase 3 of the clinical trials.

“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 [ng clinical trials],” Vergeire said in an Unang Hirit interview.

For his part, Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) director general Eric Domingo said the Russia-developed COVID-19 vaccine will still be under the review of the regulatory agency.

Interviewed on Dobol B sa News TV, Domingo said the review on the vaccine will take two to four weeks.

“Ang FDA, sinusuri niya lahat ng data. Kailangan maipakita po sa amin 'yung data, findings, tsaka 'yung scientific na mga information about the vaccine to assure na safe siya at tsaka effective siya,” he said.

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 is at 68,794. 

Ongoing trials

During the Unang Hirit interview, Vergeire 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,” she said when asked on the possibility of the vaccine's availability by December.

“Itong bakuna galing Russia... ito ay nasa Phase 3 ng clinical trials. Kailangang tapusin muna Phase 3 clinical trials.” 

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,” she 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.

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.

"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. —LBG/KBK, GMA News