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Health workers among those to get first shots of COVID-19 vaccine under clinical trial, says expert

Health workers will be among those who will be prioritized to join the clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines, Philippine Foundation for Vaccination president Dr. Liza Gonzales said Friday.

"'Doon po sa mga vaccine trials, ang mga uunahin po ay yung mga at-risk. So sino po ito? Mga healthcare workers, mga frontliners at saka mga tao na na-expose sa mga taong may COVID. So 'yun muna po ang uunahing isasama sa trial. Later on na 'yung mga iba," Gonzales, also a part of the country's vaccine expert panel, said in an online forum.

During the same event, the Food and Drug Administration said it has yet to receive any application for clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine in the country.

Gonzales inferred that should vaccine developers be able to submit their applications next month, the clinical trials may start in October or November.

The earliest possible time that clinical trial results would come out would be around March to May, she added.

Will COVID-19 vaccine development take too long?

During the same forum, infectious disease specialist and vaccine clinical trialist Dr. Josie Carlos said the usual vaccine development usually takes about 10 to 15 years.

"But if we are in a pandemic, this may be fast-tracked but following of course the scientific investigation and all the necessary regulations," she said.

"Kung ipa-fast-track po, something like one and a half to two years for COVID-19 vaccine, even utilizing, combining resources and so on," she added.

Meanwhile, Single Joint Research Ethics Board chairperson Dr. Jacinto Mantaring said the incidence of the disease to be prevented is also a factor in vaccine development.

"Bago malamang epektibo ang isang vaccine, dapat nagagamit sa malawakang publiko. So kung ang sakit na pinag-uusapan natin ay very rare, low incidence, mga less than 10% it will really take years," Mantarin, also a clinical epidemiologist, said.

"Pero kung maraming maraming nagkakasakit at maraming mabibigyan ng experimental vaccine, agad-agad nating makikita kung mabisa," he added.

In the case of the COVID-19 global pandemic, vaccine development could take faster time, according to Mantaring.

Nonetheless, he underscored that a pandemic should not justify lax processes for vaccine approval.

"Hindi porke't may pandemya ay ikokompromiso namin ang proseso," he said.

"Kailangan pagpasensyahan ninyo ang ethics research committees. Lagi kasi kaming na-aaccuse na ang tagal-tagal naming mag-review pero tandaan ninyo, ang aming punto de bista is for the research participants, gusto namin sila ma-protect," he added.

Around 1,000 Filipinos are being eyed to join the Phase 3 clinical trials of Sputnik V which gained the regulatory approval of Russia after less than two months of human testing.

Sputnik V will likely be available for commercial use in the Philippines by April 2021, according to Philippine Council for Health Research executive director Dr. Jaime Montoya. — RSJ, GMA News