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COVID-19 vaccine availability depends on gov't negotiations with developers —PCHRD

Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PHCRD) executive director Dr. Jaime Montoya

The availability of an effective COVID-19 vaccine to the Philippines will depend on the negotiations between the government and the vaccine developer, even if the country is a participant in clinical trials, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PHCRD) said Wednesday.

PCHRD executive director Dr. Jaime Montoya made the remark during the House panel deliberations on the proposed budget of the Department of Science and Technology for 2021.

During the hearing, House appropriations panel vice chair Ruffy Biazon asked if the Philippines' participation in clinical trials will allow it to get priority in the distribution of these COVID-19 vaccines once they are proven effective.

Montoya, in response, assured that an effective COVID-19 vaccine will be available to Filipinos, but there is no assurance on when this will be available.

"Basta ang isang vaccine developer ay naggawa ng clinical trial sa isang bansa, they will make that vaccine available. Ang tanong lang is kaagad ba? Alam natin na itong panahon ng COVID-19, lahat ng bansa ay nag-uunahan na makakuha ng bakuna," he said.

"Ang kasiguraduhan lang po niyan, sigurado magkakaroon tayo. Depende na sa negosasyon na maaaring gagawin ng ating pamahalaan sa mga vaccine ng developer ng mga bakuna na magiging successful kung paano tayo mauuna sa pila," he added.

Back in May, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved the DOST's recommendation that the Philippines participate in the clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines.

The collaborating organizations for the clinical trials include the Adimmune Corporation, Acedemia Sinica, the Chinese Academy of Science - Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health, and SinoPharma - Wuhan Institute of Biological Products and Beijing Institute.

The Philippines also joined the upcoming Phase 3 clinical trials for Russian COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V running from October 2020 to March 2021, with Russia expected to shoulder the costs.

But even if the country is a participant of these clinical trials, DOST Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña said it does not mean that the Philippines is committing to purchase vaccines from these developers.

"Kung ang bakuna na ito ay okay, 'yung isang bakuna ay okay din, hindi naman tayo puwedeng patali habang nagki-clinical trials," he said.

"Kung bibili tayo sa kanila, obligado sila dahil dito nila ginawa 'yung trials. Pero hindi tayo magco-commit na bibili tayo sa kanila kahit dito ginawa trial. Dahil tayo ay magko-compare pa rin. Dadaan 'yan sa procurement process," he added.

Dela Peña said the IATF has already approved the DOST's recommendation to create a sub-technical working group (TWG) for vaccine procurement.

"Doon sa vaccine procurement, DBM (Department of Budget and Management) na ang magche-chair ng sub-TWG at pitong ahensya ang kasali. Pero magsasabi pa rin kung ilan at alin ang bibilhin ay DOH (Department of Health)," he added. —KG, GMA News